FNE 2010 Year in Review: Czechs Turn a Corner

By Irena Zemanová

    With the approval of the highly anticipated film tax incentives, the return of foreign film production, continuing record box office attendance, and a wealth of film productions in the pipeline, 2010 was an important year for the Czech film industry.

    Tax Incentives

    Approval of film tax incentives had been was anticipated for more than five years by both Czech and international filmmakers . The European Union approved Czech film tax incentives in June. The proposal, which was first approved in October 2009 by the Czech government, allows foreign productions a rebate of up to 20% of the amount spent in the country. The Czech Ministry of Culture (www.mkcr.cz) budgeted CZK 400 million (16 million euros) for rebates in 2010 and had been awaiting the EU decision since January.

    The Czech Ministry of Culture has already prepared film incentives based on CZK 2 billion in foreign spend in the Czech Republic, more than triple the amount spent by the foreign productions in the Czech Republic in 2009. The same amout is under consideration for 2011.

    According to Pavel Strnad, head of the Czech Audiovisual Producer´s Association APA (www.asociaceproducentu.cz ) and leading Czech production company Negativ (www.negativ.cz), in 2003, Hollywood and European filmmakers spent more than 5 bilion crowns in the Czech Republic. In 2008, the amount of the foreign investments dropped to only CZK 700 million as Hollywood production move to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine, driven away by the Czech Republic's lack of tax incentives.

    The new Film Industry Support Programme is paying off. At least 18 productions have been already approved, receiving nearly CZK 200 million (€8.1 million) in grants, acoording to Czech film commission (www.filmcommission.cz).

    International Coproductions

    International coproductions produced in the Czech Republic in 2010 included The Return of Xander Cage, a co-production between Stillking (www.stillking.com ) and Paramount (www.paramount.com), a new installment in the XXX franchise. The project will receive CZK 29.8 million (€1.1 million) as a rebate on local costs. Some CZK 31.5 million (€1.2 million) of funding was assigned to Etic Films (www.etic.cz) and The Borgias, Canal Plus' 12-episode miniseries about the notorious and Italian Renaissance dynasty, which shoots in Prague.

    The biggest Hollywood coproduction of 2010 was Mission: Impossible 4, which will get CZK 57.6m (€2.3 million) with Czech co-producer Stillking Films, with producers J.J. Abrams, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. In October, the new installment returned to Prague, where Cruise and director Brian De Palma kicked off the franchise with 1996's Mission: Impossible. The shooting itself took place in Prague and other Czech exteriors for three weeks.

    International films are by no means the only ones to benefit from the incentives. Local productions that have been approved for the 20% rebate include Actor´s Runway Agency's The Last Children of Aporver (www.actorsrunway.cz) (rebates of CZK 10.1m); 3D family film V peřinách by director F.A. Branec,(CZK 8.5m) by Hollywood Classic Entertainment (www.hce.cz ); director´s Petr Nikolaev´s Lidice (CZK 8m) by Bioscop (www.bioscop.cz ); Leaving by Buc Film Production (www.bucfilm.cz), written and directed by former Czech President Václav Havel (CZK 8m); Golem Film's (www.golemfilm.cz) The Devil's Bride (CZK 5m); Alois Nebel (CZK 3.3m) by Negativ production (www.negativ.cz); Cinemania's Westernstory (CZK 3.5m); and In Film Praha's (www.infilm.cz) Innocence by Jan Hřebejk (CZK 3.6m) and A Men's Novel, the recent Czech box office hit drected by Jiří Vejdělek (rebates of CZK 3.1m).

    Meanwhile, the new Czech Culture Minister Jiri Besser announced that he will seek 300 million CZK from next year's 2011 budget to continue the film production incentives launched in June 2010. The news is a good sign considering the current trend to cut budgets. The state budget has yet to be approved but Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has also voiced his support for the film incentives program, indicating they will meet little resistance in Parliament.

    Czech Productions and Record Grants

    In 2010, 27 feature films were produced in Czech Republic. Support for film production and distribution by the Czech Ministry of Culture´s state fund for support and development of cinematography was CZK 230 million, slightly more than 2009 (222.6 million CZK).

    However, several Czech movies postponed their premieres, due to various difficulties. One of those is Lidice the WWII drama produced by Adam Dvořák for Bioscop (www.bioscop.cz) based on the true story of a 1942´s Nazi massacre in the village of Lidice. With a budget 70 million CZK, and a record 20 million CZK grant, Lidice had an extremely long pre-production. Director Alice Nellis had to step down from the project due to illness in summer 2010 and Petr Nikolaev replaced her. The project finally started its shooting in June and finished at the end of September. The premiere is planned for June 2011.

    Czech animation continued to grow in 2010. One of the most anticipated project is animated Fimfarum 3 by directors Vlasta Pospíšilová, Kristina Dufková and David Súkup, that consists three fairy tales based on a book by Jan Werich, combining classic puppet and computer animation, which received a 7million CZK grant (with a budget of 30 million), and The Little Fishergirl by director Jan Balej, that received a record 10m CZK grant for animation. Both movies are produced by Maur film (www.maurfilm.cz). Fimfarum 3 is expected in Febuary 2011 in cinemas. The Little Fishergirl is still in pre-production, due to its demanding 3D technology production. Previously, a 2012 release was planned, now rescheduled for international distribution in 2014. With a budget of CZK 50 million, Jan Balej´s movie will be far the most expensive animation in Czech history.

    Box Office and Attendance

    Czech cinemas reached record box office and attendance in 2009 with box office of 1.25 billion crowns (50.4 million euros) and attendance of 12.4 million viewers, according to the Czech Audiovisual Producer´s Association APA (www.asociaceproducentu.cz). The situation could be even better in 2010, as in August 2010, box office was over 1.05 billion crowns again and attendance topped 9.3 million viewers, according to the Czech Union of film distributors (www.ufd.cz). As usual, Czech viewers are very loyal to Czech films.

    The most successful Czech movie of 2010 is the romantic comedy Women in Temptation by director and screenwriter Jiří Vejdělek and production company Infinity (www.infinity.cz) and distribution company Falcon (www.falcon.cz). The fresh comedy about three generation of women in one family is the only 2010 Czech movie that reached the 1 million viewers with the attendance of 1,031 million and box office of CZK 122 million.

    One of the most successful czech movie of 2010 was the criminal thriller Kajínek by director Petr Jákl and his company J.B.J. Film (www.jbj-film.cz), that attracted more than 685,000 Czech viewers since its release in August with a domestic box office of 83 million crowns. Jan Svěrák´s animated fairy tale Kuky Returns by Falcon (www.falcon.cz) attracted 260,000 viewers with ticket sales of CZK 28 million.