NEWS

Year 2018: Czech Independent Producers' Turnover Reached a Historic High

Czech companies working in international service production sector seized opportunities resulting from the dramatic expansion of global Internet platforms and streaming services.

In 2018, the Czech audiovisual market has surpassed the record turnover of CZK 7.6 billion that date back to 2003, before the film incentives in Hungary and other European countries were introduced. It took 15 years for the Czech Republic to recover from the competitive disadvantage and from losing the position as a key European destination for international film production. At the time, state institutions failed to respond to changes in the market; it took seven years to introduce a domestic film incentives program, and another four years to secure long term funding for the incentives. If the Czech government once again fails to react to the boom in the global audiovisual market, it will miss the opportunity to capitalize on significant foreign investment.

Since 2002, the Association of Audiovisual Producers (APA) has been collecting and evaluating turnover data of its members – independent producers in the field of foreign film production, commercials, Czech feature film, television. online content production, documentary and animation. Czech production companies’ (members of APA) total turnover reached CZK 8.2 billion in 2018. This means an annual increase of almost 30% and, compared to 2009 when the Czech audiovisual industry gross reached its lowest figure, the turnover increased 2,7 times. The production companies working in the field of the international service production dominated the market with an overall gross of CZK 4.926 billion – the maximum value recorded in APA statistics (and 260% of the 2017 gross). Production of commercials fell for the third year in a row – a slight increase in the APA records last year was caused by the expansion of the APA membership base. A closer look at the data for 2018 indicates a clear and on-going downward trend. Without the turnover of the new APA members, the commercials production were at the second lowest level since APA started to keep records, to about CZK 1.5 billion. Local independent film and television productions exceeded the last year’s turnover of CZK 1.5 billion, reaching the highest gross turnover figures on record. However, the uptick is the result of the making of the historical drama Jan Žižka – the most expensive Czech film ever, with production costs reaching CZK 400 million.

 Millions CZK

 2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Czech films

390

243

386

487

795

613

880

800

577

621

739

795

646

852

921

1040    

1522

International

4 545

5 024

1 542

1 961

1 371

2 133

705

744

943

1 036

1 564

2 840

3 354

3 704

3 575

3158

4926

Commercials

2 237

2 371

2 107

2 048

1 804

2 132

1 937

1 489

2 060

2 162

1 772

1 392

1 960

2 203

2 027

2131

1753

Total

7 172

7 638

4 035

4 496

3 970

4 878

3 522

3 033

3 580

3 819

4 075

5 027

5 960

6 759

6 523

6329

8201

A dramatic increase in foreign television and film service production was a crucial factor in total independent production turnover of in 2018. Foreign film crews have spent almost CZK 5 billion in the Czech Republic, despite the fact that the Czech Republic is currently the only EU member country where foreign investors receive only 20 % incentive (while Spain also offers a 20 % base rate for international production, it offers additional 20 % discount on filming in certain locations, and the domestic productions receive 25 % base rate incentives. In Latvia, the basic incentives rose to 25 % if "Riga plays Riga". The Slovak Parliament is close to amending a bill, which would increase incentives to 33 %. Thus, all other EU countries offer much more favourable terms to foreign producers.

In 2018, Czech producers managed to overcome these obstacles. Already in 2016–2017, several foreign productions chose the Czech Republic to shoot major TV series. Competition among multinational online platforms, bolstered by the increased production of television broadcasters (BBC or Canal +) content, caused an unprecedented boom in series production and has led to a dramatic global increase in original serial production investments. Shooting 10 or 12 hours for one season of a big budget, epic series clearly takes longer than making a feature film. Producers bring only a skeleton foreign crew to the Czech Republic, hiring local creative talent and workers. These are the two main reasons for growing foreign investment. Due to the eagerness of regional film offices, a large portion of foreign film investments were spent outside of Prague, in the regions of Northern and Southern Bohemia, Central Bohemia and the town of Karlovy Vary, as well as in Southern and Northern Moravia.

Following a positive experience, foreign producers are returning to shoot additional seasons. According to data provided by the Czech Film Commission, production companies filming international series completed nearly 500 shooting days in 2018 and spent almost CZK 3.2 billion. Last year, the total volume of series content shot in the Czech Republic accounted for about 65 % of foreign production made.

Last year, the biggest project shot domestically was the first season of the fantasy series Carnival Row, produced for Amazon Studios and Legendary Television, with the service production in the Czech Republic provided by Stillking Films. Acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro wrote and co-produced Carnival Row. The series, starring Orlando Bloom (Legolas / Will Turner) and Cara Delevingne (June Moone in Suicide Squad) premieres in September 2019. The production invested almost CZK 1.5 billion in the Czech Republic. Stillking is currently providing production services for season two.

The Knightfall series about Knights Templars, produced by Stillking Films for History Channel, returned to the Czech Republic to film season two. Mark Hamill, known mainly for his role of Luke Skywalker, stars in one of the main roles. The producers of the Knightfall spent CZK 800 million in the Czech Republic. Stillking produced Whiskey Cavalier, a Warner Bros Television action-adventure series in 2018-2019. This production spent CZK 1.4 billion here.

Czech-Anglo Productions produced a war miniseries for the BBC. World on Fire, starring American actress Helen Hunt (Oscar winner for As Good as It Gets) and Lesley Manville (Oscar-nominee for the role of Cyril in Phantom Thread) focuses on the lives of ordinary people during World War II. The project has spent CZK 300 million in the Czech Republic.

Part of the Spiderman: Far from Home movie, directed by Jon Watts, was also shot in the Czech Republic. Besides Prague and Liberec, the film was also shot on locations in London and Venice.

In addition to the so-called eligible costs, which are subject to a thorough audit, and of which foreign producers receive 20 % back, further costs for foreign film companies shooting in the Czech Republic averaged between 3–30 % in additional foreign investment, according to APA statistics.

After commercials production recovered from the economic crisis and started to gain momentum, the end of the Czech National Bank currency intervention in spring 2017 made filming in the Czech Republic expensive for international commercials clients. However, the most pressing problem faced by productions was the amendment to the Road Act at the beginning of 2016, which extended the legal processing deadlines for obtaining location permits and thus reduced production flexibility that could be offered to foreign partners. Despite coordinated efforts of APA, the State Cinematography Fund and the Location Managers Union, to communicate the issue to the appropriate state institutions and municipalities, the dramatic shift of foreign and domestic production to other countries continues for a third year in a row. Clients look for countries where legislation and local government are much more accommodating to the audiovisual industry. Only a few local companies in the advertising industry have been able to cope with these red tape barriers and keep their gross at the 2017 level.

Czech film and television production reached its historical peak last year, the turnover of the APA members surpassed a record of CZK 1.5 billion. However, as pointed out earlier, CZK 400 millions of this figure can be ascribed to the production cost of shooting Jan Žižka, produced by Petr Jákl. Still, even when taking out this outstanding project from the statistic, APA members' domestic production turnover increased by 8 % compared to 2017, and again exceeded CZK 1 billion. For the second year in a row, stabilization of the legislative framework, as well as funding from the State Cinematography Fund, significantly raised possibilities and productivity of local film companies.

For the second time, APA members have categorized their turnovers according to the primary distribution means, as follows: turnover for Czech independent films amounted to CZK 1,115 billion (CZK 715 million without Jan Žižka), CZK 358 million for television content and CZK 49 million for online distribution. Compared to 2017, the volume of production for cinema distribution grew (by 110, or 51O mil. CZK). The same applies to domestic online platforms (increased by CZK 21 million), while the volume of television production slightly decreased.

While the online platforms are gradually gaining ground among local viewers, television broadcasters serve as an essential partner for independent producers. Last year, Czech Television recorded a slight increase in the production share of independent producers, by 3 %.

Proportional share of the external production in the Czech Television (without sport, news, acquisition):

 

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

External production share 

39 %

38 %

29 %

37 %

35 %

38 %

(Source: Czech Television)

The popularity of Czech film productions did not reach the previous year's record result with the audience 

A record number of 298 films was premiered in Czech film theatres, with 70 local production premieres: 39 feature films (32 in 2017), 29 documentaries (21 in 2017) and 2 animated films (2 in 2017). With a total of 16.344 million Czech cinemagoers buying tickets in 2018, it was the highest audience turnout in the past 25 years. According to the Union of Film Distributors (UFD), last year's sales amounted to CZK 2.269 billion, a 13 % increase from 2017.

Turnout and box office in the Czech cinema theatres between 2016–2018

Year

Screenings

Audience

Box Office

Average ticket price

2016

471 202

15 621 923

CZK 2 011 044 198 

CZK 128,73 

2017

493 900

15 233 432

CZK 2 004 245 131

CZK 131,57

2018

544 243

16 344 483

CZK 2 268 942 623

 CZK 138,82 

Last year's Czech film productions saw no major audience hit. The most successful Czech premiere was the film What Men Want, seen by more than half a million viewers in the theatres, followed by Dad's Volga (348 thousand viewers). Among the 50 highest box office films of 2018, a total of 16 titles came from domestic productions (10 in 2017).

Top ten chart of the Czech and Moravian theatres in the 20181:

Order Title Production Screenings Audience
1 Bohemian Rhapsody UK 11 550 1 073 638
2 Avengers: Infinity War USA 13 622 631 252
3 What Men Want CZE 10 730 558 988
4 Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation USA 14 805 491 501
5 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindel UK 9 578 473 131
6 Jurassic Park: The Fallen Kingdom USA 10 769 407 221
7 Venom USA 8 773 388 925
8 Fifty Shades of Freedom USA 7 022 360 449
9 Incredibles 2 USA 11 560 351 163
10 Dad’s Volga CZE 7 773 348 082

Czech films attracted a total of 3.39 million viewers in 2018, which is approximately the same number as in the previous year. The share of domestic productions reached 23.5 % of the total box office, compared to 23.3 % in 2017.

2018 from the perspective of animation film producers

Hurvínek and the Magical Museum became perhaps the best-selling Czech film of all time – seen by viewers in over 95 countries. The high production value of this animation project was crucial to its success. The significant investment had a positive effect on the quality of craftsmanship, which was one of the critical deciding factors for foreign distributors.

The large co-production animated puppet project Mice Belong to Heaven by Jan Bubeníček and Denisa Grimmová went into production. The film is based on Iva Procházková's book of the same name. Another major animation film in production is My Sunny Maad, directed by Michaela Pavlátová and produced by Negativ with a French co-producer Sacrebleu. This project has received significant support from the State Cinematography Fund, the highest ever recorded for a feature-length animation. The feature films Life for Consumption (directed by Kristina Dufková) and Tonda, Slávka and Genius (directed by Filip Pošívač, screenplay by Jana Šráková, Nutprodukce) are also being produced.

The MAUR production company title Of Unwanted Things and People won the Visegrád Animation Forum 2018, as well as the Eurimages Development Award for best presentation and development in the Cartoon Movie program. Short formats saw significant international achievements, too: Katka Karhánková received an award in Berlin for her film The Clouds, and at this year's Annecy, Czech movies won a record three awards. FAMU animation films accounted for 65 % of all the awards that FAMU students’ projects received at world festivals.

Czech animation productions achieved these outstanding results thanks to the appropriate strategy of the State Cinematography Fund. It allows funding for development and more generous funding granted to flagship, high-quality projects.

Missing in the Czech animation output are series. Internationally, series production accounts for 90% of total animation production. Series production remains a great challenge for creators, but especially for Czech Television.

2018 from the perspective of documentary filmmakers

Several Czech documentaries were box office hits, including Planet of the Czech Republic directed by Marian Polák attracting almost 100,000 viewers and out-performing the other Czech Lion Award nominees, like feature films Hastrman and Jan Palach. A festival hit, When The War Comes, was also among the Czech Lion documentary nominees. After its premiere at the Berlinale, Jan Gebrt's debut screened at more than 20 festivals. And finally, the Czech Lion documentary category winner, King Skate, was another directorial feature debut. 

Cooperation with public institutions culminated during the largest and most prestigious documentary festival IDFA in Amsterdam, where a special Czech dinner was hosted for the first time and Helena Třeštíková was introduced as the main guest, with a retrospective of her work.

Putin’s Witnesses, one last year’s minority co-productions of, also deserves a mention. Directed by Russian director Vitaly Mansky, it won at KVIFF and then went on to screen at many international festivals.

APA is also pleased to part of the Industry Program at the Jihlava Documentary Film Festival, East Doc Platform and doc.incubator. All these Czech events have developed an excellent international reputation and help introduce Czech projects on the international scene. The number of documentary films that successfully apply for film incentives has also increased, helping documentary production to stabilize.

<<< BACK