One of our aims on the blog is to promote ‘cross border’ knowledge about films. Outside Hollywood, many films only circulate in their own domestic market or associated language markets. Films have to be sold to distributors for different territories. There are reasons why sales don’t take place for some titles, but sometimes it is just a matter of luck or timing – whereas Hollywood films are often sold to affiliates/partners of the US studio distributor.
It is relatively straightforward to discover what is happening in Europe since there is good quality data available from several sources including the Lumiere Database, Cineuropa and Focus. These sources collate data from across the EU (and sometimes beyond to the ‘Europe of 36’). The only slight problem is that UK box office data is usually expressed as box office revenue. This has to be converted into approximate admissions data to match the European convention.
Here is the Top 25 European-produced films of 2007 (taken from Focus 2008)
(Showing title, producing country, year, director and admissions)
1 Mr. Bean’s Holiday GB/FR/DE/US 2007 Steve Bendelack 15,251,106
2 La Môme FR/CZ/GB 2007 Olivier Dahan 7,225,794
3 Taxi 4 FR 2007 Gérard Krawczyk 5,334,716
4 Hot Fuzz GB/FR/US 2007 Edgar Wright 4,849,649
5 Das Leben der Anderen DE 2006 F. H. von Donnersmarck 4,057,710 (a further 1.8 million admissions in 2006)
6 Ensemble, c’est tout FR 2007 Claude Berri 3,304,303
7 Manuale d’amore 2 (Capitoli successivi) IT 2007 Giovanni Veronesi 3,134,777
8 Natale in crociera IT 2007 Neri Parenti 3,074,353
9 Atonement GB/FR/US 2007 Joe Wright 3,059,096
10 Arthur et les Minimoys FR 2006 Luc Besson 2,902,293 (a further 4.8 million in 2006)
11 Lissi und der wilde Kaiser DE 2007 Michael Herbig 2,751,339
12 Katyn PL 2007 Andrzej Wajda 2,735,777
13 Elizabeth: The Golden Age GB/FR/DE 2007 Shekhar Kapur 2,686,064
14 Die Wilden Kerle 4 DE 2007 Joachim Masannek 2,655,249
15 Ho voglia di te IT 2007 Luis Prieto 2,309,624
16 Una Moglie bellissima IT 2007 Leonardo Pieraccioni 2,306,726
17 The Last King of Scotland GB/DE 2006 Kevin Macdonald 2,250,156
18 Run Fatboy Run GB/US 2007 David Schwimmer 2,202,040
19 Notte prima degli esami – Oggi IT 2007 Fausto Brizzi 2,057,238
20 Notes on a Scandal GB 2006 Richard Eyre 2,052,873
21 Hitman FR/US 2007 Xavier Gens 2,038,333
22 Beyaz melek TR 2007 Mahsun Kirmizigül 1,995,040
23 Eastern Promises GB/US/CA 2007 David Cronenberg 1,940,419
24 28 Weeks Later GB/ES 2007 Juan Carlos Fresnadillo 1,873,720
25 Le Coeur des hommes 2 FR 2007 Marc Esposito 1,846,351
The chart does not include the UK/US films designated ‘Inward investment’ by the UKFC, so no Harry Potter or The Golden Compass etc.
In many ways, the chart offers what you might expect with most of the films coming from the four biggest economies – Germany, France, Italy and the UK. There is no Spanish entry, which signals the recent decline of Spanish domestic production. (However, there must be a mistake in compiling the chart as the horror film El Orfanato was released in October 2007 attracting over 4 million admissions – nevertheless, Spain has recently seen a real decline in domestic successes.)
What is perhaps surprising is the relatively high position of the Italian entries, signalling something of a resurgence in domestic production. Note also the high position for Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn and the entry of a Turkish film, Beyaz melek, which made money in Germany and the UK as well as Turkey and some other non-EU countries.
There is some American money involved in European majority co-productions, but it is significant that several of the films here are co-productions involving UK, France or Germany.
The real importance of the chart for our purposes is to note how many/few of the films have been released widely in Europe. A rough calculation suggests around a half of these titles have been released in more than two or three European countries.
The films that are assumed not to travel are usually comedies. Manuale d’amore 2 (Capitoli successivi) is, as the title implies, a sequel to a previous hit in Italy. IMDB describes it as a ‘comedy romance’ and lists it as opening in Spain in 2007 and Greece (and South Korea) in 2008. At the moment, it is only showing Italy on the Lumiere database. (The film does have a star known acroos Europe in the form of Monica Belucci). Much the same goes for Natale in crociera. The other three Italian films are all comedies. The two German films at nos. 11 and 14 are also comedies, but only released in Germany and Austria. IMDB rates all these films very low on the 10 point scale, but presumably somebody out of the millions who saw the films enjoyed them? How do we take account of these productions in terms of European Cinema?
The Turkish film Beyaz melek is rather different. It appears to be an ‘epic drama’ about people in a retirement home in Eastern Turkey and is the first directorial effort by a Turkish singer. The film played to diaspora Turkish audiences in at least Germany and the UK and possibly other European countries as well. In the UK, the screenings were at Wood Green Cineworld and Lee Valley Odeon in North East London. I for one would be very interested in seeing this film with English subtitles.
The crunch film in the list is Katyn. Poland has both a potentially large domestic market and a large number of Poles both temporarily and permanently overseas. In the UK, Dogwoof has imported Polish films (see our review of Wesele). However, Andrzej Wajda is not only the doyen of Polish filmmakers, but also a world figure. There was some dismay when a rumour began that the major arthouse distributor in the UK did not want to buy Katyn, seeing it as ‘old-fashioned’. Now it seems it will be released in the next few months. The story, about the massacre of Polish Army officers by the Russians in 1940, is both a ‘national story’ for the Poles and a personal story for Wajda (whose father was one of the officers killed). The UK has missed out on similar films before (e.g. Wajda’s Pan Tadeusz in 1999).
The distributors may well be correct in their commercial judgment about how films will travel, but Hollywood has persevered and sold us dross. Perhaps European distributors could be more adventurous?
(As of 3 August, I have been unable to confirm that Katyn has got a UK distributor, so the statement above should be ignored until further notice.)