Czech cinemas enjoying record earnings

Looking at the sales for Czech cinemas for the last half year, it seems there’s no business like show business for riding out an economic crisis. This week, the Union of Film Distributors released the results of domestic cinemas for the first six months of 2010, and they showed record earnings – a whopping 747 million crowns – as well as nearly a million more movie-goers. Christian Falvey has this report.

Aleš Danielis,  photo: CTK
If cinemas in the Czech Republic manage to make as much money in the last half of 2010 as they did in the first six months, this will be their best year ever. Surprisingly at first glance, despite high unemployment and higher prices of tickets at the box offices (up to 113 crowns on average), movie-goers are out in droves, with almost seven million seats filled since January. I asked Aleš Danielis, director of distribution at the country’s primary film distribution company, Bontonfilm, what was fuelling the leap in visitors.

“The advantage of the first part of this year, as everywhere in the world, was on the one hand the very strong success of Avatar. And generally we can say that there were very good results for almost all of the 3D films that were in the cinemas. During the first half of the year, 13.3% of all shows were 3D digital, and that 13.3% collected 29.1% of the box office.”

Indeed, roughly a fourth of total cinema earnings in the Czech Republic came from the 3-D sci-fi epic Avatar alone, which has been watched by 1.3 million Czech viewers since its release in mid-December. This success was possible thanks to 79 DCI 3D screens in the country, 40 of which can be found in regional towns and cities. And while the 3D bonanza can be found across Europe, the Czech market is also boosted by the unique fondness that Czechs have for Czech film. Mr Danielis estimates that 25% of cinema-goers so far this year have been attending Czech movies, such as the latest by comedy director Jiří Vejdělek, Women in Temptation, which has made half of what Avatar has in roughly half the time.

What does all this success say about the real harmfulness of the film distributor’s main nemesis, the internet pirate? Mr Danielis himself has often spoken out against piracy, and so I asked him if the positive trends in cinema profitability don’t show that piracy is less destructive to the business than is often thought.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
“The total distribution results in the Czech Republic are concentrated on quite a small number of extremely strong films. And there are also quite stable results for art house films. But what is very complicated is the situation in the “mainstream”. Cinemas can live with that, but for the distributors who work with independent production, European films, this influence of internet piracy is very, very bad, and it could have a very bad influence on independent, mainstream film.”

For now, maybe the only thing better for Czech cinemas would a Czech film in 3D: as it stands, good news is right around the corner: three such films are in now in production.