The end for Hollywood’s reign over Polish screens

Article  by  Karl DEMYTTENAERE  •  Published 27.05.2013  •  Updated 27.05.2013
[NEWS] In April 2013, Polish spectators rushed to movie theatres for screenings of domestic productions. Has local cinema won over audiences once and for all, or is this merely a trend?
In April 2013, successful scenarios for domestic productions played out in movies theatres in Warsaw, Krakow and across Poland. No fewer than four Polish films attracted more than 100,000 spectators their opening weekend: Bejbi Blues by Katarzyna Rosłaniec[+] NoteWinner of a Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Generation 14plus section at the Berlinale.X [1], Sep bu Eugeniusz Korin[+] NoteWith Michal Zebrowski.X [2] (109,431), Uklad Zamkniety by Ryszard Bugajski[+] NoteWith Janusz Gajos, Kazimierz Kaczor, Wojciech Zolądkowicz, Robert Olech and Przemyslaw Sadowski.X [3] (100,946) and  Drogówka by Wojciech Smarzowski[+] NoteWith Arkadiusz Jakubik, Bartłomiej Topa, Marian Dziędziel and Eryk Lubos.X [4] (176,732).
 
This latter feature attracted more than a million spectators in just two weeks – an impressive performance that relegated blockbusters such as Oz: The Great and Powerful[+] NoteBy Sam Raimi, with James Franco.X [5] and Die Hard 5[+] NoteBy John More, with Bruce Willis. X [6] to 12th and 15th position respectively at the Polish box office in 2013.
 
The situation is all the more surprising considering that 80% of Polish movie theatres are located in multiplexes, more inclined to screen the latest massive Hollywood productions than local films. This stance proved profitable until recently, with three American super-productions occupying the top spots at the box office in 2012: Madagascar 3[+] NoteBy Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath.X [7], Skyfall[+] NoteBy Sam Mendes, with Daniel Craig. X [8] and the latest opus in the Pirates of the Caribbean series[+] NotePirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, by Rob Marshall, with Johnny Depp.X [9].
 
In April 2013, the tides seemed to turn when Polish film Drogówka reached the top spot with 5,871,000 dollars in ticket sales, ahead of another domestic production, Sep, which earned 3,346,000 dollars in ticket sales. Polish productions have nevertheless always accounted for a substantial proportion of the national box office – nearly 30% in 2011, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory, representing the highest rate in Central and Eastern Europe (in comparison, the figure was 41.6% in France, 37.5% in Italy and 36.2% in the UK this same year). In August 2012, the Polish-Czech production Yuma, by Piotr Mularuk[+] NoteWith Jakub Gierszal, Krzysztof Skonieczny and Jakub Kamienski. X [10], beat two Hollywood heavyweights: The Dark Knight Rises, by Christopher Nolan[+] NoteWith Christian Bale and Tom Hardy.X [11], and Prometheus, by Ridley Scott[+] NoteWith Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender.X [12].


Scene from the movie Uklad Zamkniety

 
However, in 2013, the originality of these new Polish feature films, and their success, lie in both their production and screenplays. These films were funded all but independently of the Polish Film Institute, the powerful body charged with supporting domestic cinema. Uklad Zamkniety, for example, was produced by Filmicon Dom Filmowy, a company founded by screenwriters Mirosław Pepka and Olga Bieniek. The subjects dealt with in these films furthermore concern contemporary Polish society, rather than the country’s tumultuous past. Uklad Zamkniety recounts the true story of the wrongful incarceration of three Polish businessmen in 2003, and Drogówka relates the day-to-day existence of a group of police officers.
 
These excellent performances could very well pave the way for a new Polish cinema, simultaneously able to finance itself without public support and deal with contemporary subjects without compromise.

Translated from French by Sara Heft
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Photo Credits:
Visuals used with the authorization of film distributor Kino Swiat
  • 1. Winner of a Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Generation 14plus section at the Berlinale.
  • 2. With Michal Zebrowski.
  • 3. With Janusz Gajos, Kazimierz Kaczor, Wojciech Zolądkowicz, Robert Olech and Przemyslaw Sadowski.
  • 4. With Arkadiusz Jakubik, Bartłomiej Topa, Marian Dziędziel and Eryk Lubos.
  • 5. By Sam Raimi, with James Franco.
  • 6. By John More, with Bruce Willis.
  • 7. By Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon and Tom McGrath.
  • 8. By Sam Mendes, with Daniel Craig.
  • 9. Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger tides, by Rob Marshall, with Johnny Depp.
  • 10. With Jakub Gierszal, Krzysztof Skonieczny and Jakub Kamienski.
  • 11. With Christian Bale and Tom Hardy.
  • 12. With Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender.
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