Latvia

The Sign Painter by Viesturs Kairišs, photo: 8 Heads ProductionsMARKET ANALYSIS 2020

RIGA: Latvian film industry experienced disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic since mid-March 2020. The cinemas were closed from 13 March to 9 June and from 9 November until the end of 2020 (the closure being effective until 7 February 2021). Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, film production was subject to special precautions.

Domestic films were released in cinemas and online, with some of them postponed for 2021. Viesturs Karišs’ historical drama The Sign Painter / Pilsēta pie upes, produced by Latvia's Ego Media in coproduction with Czech 8Heads Productions and Lithuania's Artbox, dominated the box office in early 2020 after its release on 15 January, but it was soon moved to online platforms.

Admissions dropped by 67% compared to 2019, but three domestic productions were in box office Top 10: The Sign Painter in the top position, followed by The Class Reunion / Klases salidojums produced by Cinevilla Films in the second position, while Blizzard of Souls / Dvēseļu putenis produced by Kultfilma, which was number 1 in 2019, closed the top 10 list in 2020.

Internationally, Ilze Burkovska-Jacobsen’s long animated film My Favourite War / Mans mīļākais karš, produced by Norwegian Bivrost Film & TV and Latvian Ego Media, won Class Reunion by Andrejs Ekisthe main award in the Contrechamp competition of the Annecy IAFF, and was screened widely at international film festivals throughout the year.

PRODUCTION

Twenty eight feature films, 12 animated films, 25 documentaries and two miniseries were in production in 2020 with the support of the National Film Centre of Latvia. Among them, two animated films, six documentaries and eight feature films were minority coproductions.

The fiction films in production included: Lame-o’s / Tizlenes directed by Marta Elīna Martinsone and produced by Ego Media, Samuel’s Travels directed by Aik Karapetian and produced by Latvian Mistrus Media in coproduction with Belgium's Polar Bear, Soviet Milk / Mātes piens directed by Ināra Kolmane and produced by Film Studio Deviņi, Troubled Minds / Nemierīgie prāti directed by Lauris Ābele and Raitis Ābele, and produced by Tritone Studio, Lovable / Mīlulis directed by Staņislavs Tokalovs and produced by Tasse Film.

Among the documentaries in production there were: Homes / Mājas directed by Laila Pakalniņa and produced by Kompānija Hargla, Podnieks on Podnieks / Podnieks par Podnieku directed by Anna Viduleja and produced by Jura Podnieka Studija, and My Mother the State / Mana māte valsts directed by Ieva Ozoliņa and produced by Latvian Fa Filma in coproduction with Iceland's Republik.

COVID GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Blizzard of Souls by Dzintars DreibergsThe National Film Centre received 2 m EUR from the state contingency fund. From this amount, 800,000 EUR were distributed for the support of projects already in production, to cover the expenses necessary for following the epidemiological conditions and to compensate for losses connected with coproductions. Sixteen projects in production with the National Film Centre’s financing received 600,000 EUR in total, but 200,000 EUR went to seven projects produced without the Centre’s financing.

A total of 180,000 EUR were allocated to funding the production of new low-budget fiction films, and two projects were supported. The largest amount, 1 m EUR, was distributed to the production of two miniseries projects to be released in 2021.   

Specific support schemes were available at the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia for companies and individuals experiencing losses because of the restrictions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

DISTRIBUTION

A total of 245 films were distributed in 2020 (compared to 319 in 2019), 41 domestic films, 102 European non-national films, 83 US productions, and 19 films from other territories.

The leading distribution companies in the country are regional Baltic distributors: Forum CinemasLatvian Theatrical DistributionAcme Film, Garsu Pasaulio irasai, and BestFilm. However, Forum Cinemas Distribution left the market in May 2020.

Regional commercial distribution in the areas without permanent cinemas is handled by Kinopunkts, which screens films in nearly 150 places, and Kino visiem un visur My Favourite War by Ilze Burkovska-JacobenLatvijā (an activity of the Latvian Filmmakers Union), which screens films in almost 100 places. They are supported by the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.

Small cinema initiatives focusing on the distribution of independent and art house films, such as Kino Bize and Kino Spektrs, which emerged in 2014 and 2015, continued their activity in 2020.

Conference / Konferentsya by the Russian director Ivan I. Tverdovky won Best Feature Film at the 7th Riga International Film Festival (15-25 October 2020).

The best national fiction film award announced at the Latvian National Film Awards (12-15 November 2020) went to Blizzard of Souls / Dvēseļu putenis directed by Dzintars Dreibergs and produced by Kultfilma. The best long documentary was Latvian Coyote / Valkātājs directed by Ivars Zviedris and produced by Dokumentālists.

The Documentary Film Festival Artdocfest in Riga postponed its physical edition and organised online screenings instead. The International Short Film Festival 2 Annas took place 10-16 February 2020. The actors’ film festival Baltijas Pērle took place 7-13 October 2020, and the Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries was held in a hybrid form from 29 August to 6 September 2020.

Lame-o's by Marta Elīna Martinsone, publicity still from Ego MediaVOD PLATFORMS AND ONLINE DISTRIBUTION 

The Internet platform Filmas.lv, the biggest Latvian film database launched in 2015, provides a catalogue of 2,778 films going back to the 1920s. A total of 236 films are available free of charge for viewing on any device in Latvia. Special events were organised to make the films available internationally for a limited period of time, due to copyright restrictions. The project is supported by the National Film Centre of Latvia in cooperation with the Culture Information Systems Centre.

In 2020 cinema Kino Bize operated its home cinema as well as an online exhibition platform with films from the cinema’s catalogue.

The database Filmas.lv expanded its offer, devising a new section, Latvian Film Classics, which is available worldwide free of charge with English subtitles. It includes 19 films, of which 13 are feature films. All films have been digitally restored. 

During the closure of theatres in 2020, the theatre company New Riga Theatre / Jaunais Rīgas teātris produced a 10-episode miniseries featuring its actors. The series Agency / Aģentūra is a psychological detective thriller set in an advertising agency in Riga in the summer of 2020. A separate VOD platform, agentura.jrt.lv, has been created for the purpose of streaming the series.

EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE

Latvia had 18 cinemas (including three multiplexes) with 69 screens and 60 digital screens (28 3D screens) throughout the country at the end of 2020.Samuel's Travels by Aik Karapetian

The number of multiplexes decreased from five to three compared to 2019, as two of the multiplexes didn’t reopen after the first closure of cinemas in March. They had 12 screens in total – four in Daugavpils (Silver Screen) and eight screens in Riga (Multikino).

Total admissions in 2020 were 899,436, of which 178,963 were admissions for domestic productions, 199,153 for European non-national productions, 487,133 for US-produced films, and 34,187 for films from other territories. Total GBO was 5,105,321 EUR, of which 1,954,096 EUR came from European and national productions, compared to 2,720,171 admissions and GBO 14,957,334 EUR in 2019.

Domestic films continued to have an important market share in the distribution in 2020 – 19.9%, compared to 20.18 % (2,504,132 gross) in 2019, 22.07% in 2018, and only 7.84% in 2017. The GBO for domestic films was 783,301 EUR.

A total of 41 domestic films were screened in 2020 (compared to 54 in 2019), and three of those made it to the Top 10 at the BO. 

The most successful films in 2020 include: The Sign Painter (70,372 admissions), Class Reunion 2 (46,261 admissions), Sonic the Hedgehog (43,638 admissions), Frozen 2 (38,288 admissions), Tenet (33,544 admissions), Spies in Disguise (28,556 admissions), and for the second year Blizzard of Souls (24,758 admissions), which concluded Rūta Kronberga on the set of Soviet Milk by Ināra Kolmane, photographer: Jānis Deinatsthe list of the highest grossing works.

GRANTS AND NEW LEGISLATION

The National Film Centre is the main film institution in Latvia. It serves as the primary source of funding for local film production, coproduction projects and activities related to the film industry (film marketing, participation of films in festivals, etc.). The grants contests are held throughout the year.

The total state support for the film industry in 2020 was 8,396,965 EUR, including 7,175,326 EUR from the National Film Centre and 1,221,639 EUR from the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.

Total state support for the industry in 2019 was 6,397,379 EUR, including 5,462,576 EUR from the National Film Centre and 934,803 EUR from the Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.

The National Film Centre supported the production of new domestic projects: six animated films, eight documentaries and five feature films, with the total amount of 1,768,327 EUR through the production financing grant schemes (annual production grants and a special programme for producing miniseries) in 2020. A total of 2,036,443 EUR was distributed to films already in production.

A total of 150,000 EUR was distributed to 16 projects in development: nine feature, four documentary and three animation projects.Troubled Minds by Lauris Ābele Raitis Ābele, source: KVIFF

In the minority coproduction grants competition, 292,409 EUR went to six projects: two fiction, two animation (including a short animation) and two documentary projects.

In 2020, the total financing for the production of national films (excluding minority coproductions), in the amount of 3,804,770 EUR, was granted to 30 film projects including 10 feature films, eight animated films and 12 documentaries.

The Latvian director Viesturs Kairišs’ new project January / Janvāris received Eurimages support in the amount of 190,000 EUR in 2020. The film is a coproduction between Mistrus Media (Latvia), Artbox (Lithuania) and Staron Film (Poland). 

In 2020 the Riga Film Fund, which offers a cash rebate of up to 25% of all production costs, approved co-financing agreements for a total amount of 634,617 EUR, supporting five servicing projects and one minority coproduction with production companies from Estonia, Germany, Poland, Denmark and Cyprus.

Latvia has a range of diverse filmmaking locations, including medieval architecture, Art Nouveau architecture and 19th century wooden architecture, therefore urban as well My Mother the State by Ieva Ozoliņaas natural locations in Latvia are able to double for many European places.

Latvia is also home to The Cinevilla Film Studio, located 50 km from the national capital of Riga and providing opportunities for shooting, as well as its own hotel.

The Latvian Film Producers Association with its approximately 30 members represents the most important film production companies in Latvia. The Latvian Filmmakers Union, which was established in 1962, also represents local filmmakers. An important role in the region is played by the Films Service Producers Association, whose members include, among others, the Latvian Film Angels Studio, the Baltic Pines film studio and Ego Media. These studios have vast experience in handling foreign productions shooting in Latvia.

TV

The leading broadcaster in Latvia is the commercial company TV3 Group. It provides Free-TV and Pay-TV, and it also operates several radio stations, the largest AVOD portal (TV3 Play), a digital advertising platform, as well as several news and entertainment portals.

Latvian Coyote by Ivars ZviedrisCommercial platforms ShortcutLMT straume, and Helio, apart from TV channels, offer film streaming, including domestic premieres. TET, which is the operator of Helio and Shortcut, produced in 2020 the original miniseries Bezvēsts pazudušās, which was released in the autumn of 2020.

The public broadcaster LTV is funded by the state and through advertising revenues. The Latvian Television organises an annual documentary film project The Code of Latvia / Latvijas kods, focusing on stories about contemporary life in Latvia. The project is implemented in cooperation and with the support of the National Film Centre of Latvia and the Culture Capital Foundation. New episodes are presented every year in November as a part of Latvian Independence Day celebrations.

In 2020 LTV produced and from October broadcast the miniseries Project: Divorce / Projekts: Šķiršanās, a contemporary family drama in 10 episodes, as well as the comedy series of six episodes Seriously? / Nopietni?, which was broadcast from November 2020.   

CONTACTS:

NATIONAL FILM CENTRE OF LATVIA 
Peitavas 10, Riga, Latvia, LV-1050
Phone: +371 7358878
Fax: +371 7358877
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
www.nkc.lv
Director: Dita Rietuma

RIGA FILM FUND
Phone: +371 6703 7659
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
www.filmriga.lv

CULTURE CAPITAL FOUNDATION 
Phone: +371 6750 3177
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
www.kkf.lv

LATVIAN FILM PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION 
Blizzard of Souls by Dzintars DreibergsPresident: Aija Berzina
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Mobile: +371 26466014

LATVIAN FILMMAKERS UNION 
Chairman: Ieva Romanova
Elizabetes Str.49, Riga
LV-1010, Latvia
Mobile: +371 29696874
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FILM SERVICE PRODUCERS ASSOCIATION OF LATVIA
Kr. Valdemara 33-10, Riga, LV-1010, Latvia
Phone: +371 67331921
Mobile: +371 25666698
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
www.filmservice.lv

MINISTRY OF CULTURE
Phone: +371 6707 8137
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www.km.gov.lv

Report by Zane Balčus (2021)
Sources: Film Riga, the National Film Centre of Latvia, the Riga Film Fund, the Latvian Television, TV3 Group