FNE VISEGRAD FORUM: Country Focus Czech Republic 2009

    As 2009 draws to a close the Czech film industry is poised for a "make or break" new film law that if approved would set up a government backed plan to lure foreign productions back into the country with a 20% refund of their expenses.

    Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has already approved the plan but the budget has to be passed by the Czech parliament at the beginning of December for the rebate scheme to go into effect.

    In the 1990's foreign productions shooting in the country pumped millions into Czech studios and production services companies but between 2003 and 2008 the industry shrunk by 50% in terms of revenues and over 80% in the numbers of productions coming into the country. And 2009 looks set to be even worse as big productions shop for tax rebates in neighbouring countries such as Hungary. Under the new law production companies shooting in the Czech Republic could apply for a rebate of up to 400 m CZK starting in January. Many Czech industry professionals believe that without these new measures the industry in the Czech Republic is finished, at least from the point of view of big international productions and coproductions.

    Czech funding for local production has been on a rise since 2007 when Czech filmmakers secured an additional 6m Euro a year from the Ministry of Culture for funding Czech film through 2011 from a windfall from digital TV licenses. This is in additional to 222m CZK (about 9m Euros) in subsidies from the Czech ministry of culture in 2009.

    A record 38 Czech films were released in 2008 and 2009 looks like 35 to 40 local features will be completed if feature length docs are included. While local production budgets averaged 1.2m Euros local productions remained strong at the local box office especially comedies.

    Czech films took three of the top four spots at the national box office in the first half of 2009. The box office was dominated by You Kiss Like God, directed by Marie Poledňáková and produced by Falcon, a.s. (www.falcon.cz) which earned CZK 86.6 million (3.4 million Euro) with 852,000 admissions, nearly three times as much as the second place film, Angels and Demons (US). Third place was held by the fairy tale Hell With the Princess, directed by Miloslav Šmídmajer and produced by Bio Illusion (www.bioillusion.com) which earned CZK 19.7 million with 247,000 admissions. In fourth place was Thawing Out, directed by Viktor Tauš and produced by Pragofilm a.s. (www.pragofilm.cz) with the participation of NOVA, SPI International, UPP with 243,000 admissions and 23.3 million in box office. Czech films claimed 32% of all admissions in the first six months of 2009.