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FNE - Step In - Locarno Country Report: Lithuania

2012-07-31

With the Lithuanian Film Centre (www.lfc.lt) beginning operations on 1 May 2012, the local film industry has received a strong and much-needed boost.

Approved by the Lithuanian government on 19 April 2012, theLithuanian Film Centre was the natural consequence of a new film law introduced in December 2011.The Vilnius Film Office was also established at the end of 2011. A tax incentive program following the Hungarian example is due for 2013.

AndTadas Blinda. The Beginningbroke all the records for attendance in Lithuania in 2011, surpassing even the American blockbusterAvatar.

LEGISLATION

After a major cut in funding in 2009 and the slowing down of the film industry (four feature films released in 2010 and only one in 2011), Lithuanian filmmakers, active through the Lithuanian Filmmakers Union, and the Independent Producers Association, saw the results of their lobbying as the government approved the founding of Lithuanian Film Centre in April 2012. It was the culmination of more than ten years of effort.

A new film law was approved in December 2011, together with the opening of Vilnius Film Office (www.filmvilnius.com) aiming to promote Lithuanian cinema abroad. As a result, Lithuania made its first appearance in the film markets ofBerlin andCannes in 2011 and 2012.

The Lithuanian Film Centre's activity which started on 1 May 2012 ranges from administration of film funding to liaising with other European film centres, encouraging film investment, and promoting new technologies in film distribution and exhibition.

The new law approved by the Parliament at the end of 2011 allows for increased funding. Appropriations provided in the national budget now allow for 60% of the previous year's actual revenue from VAT on film revenue received from distribution to be returned to the film sector. An amendment to the national tax law that will implement tax incentives for the film industry is expected in 2013, following the Hungarian example of a 20% tax rebate.

FILM PRODUCTION

New grant regulations will soon boost the film production, as Lithuania is already witnessing a documentary film boom. Two of the documentaries made between July 2011 and June 2012 are Jurga Naraškevičiūtė'sZone (Nebalta drobė), produced by Studija 2, and Marat Sargsyan'sFather, produced by Just a Moment (www.justamoment.lt), both in post-production in autumn.

Vanishing Waves LITIn July 2011 the Lithuanian company Tremora (www.tremora.com) had one film in postproduction and four more films in development for production over the next two or three years. Tremora Kristina Buozyte'sVanishing Wavesis already finished and screened in competition in Karlovy Vary in East of the West where it won a Special Mention from the jury. The film was a Lithuanian, French and Belgian coproduction.

Among upcoming projects areLaura and the Movies, which received an initial grant of 17,500 EUR from the Lithuanian Cultural Support Foundation; Ignas Miskinis'sDreg, a low budget documentary; and a feature made by a first time director. In spring 2012 Romas Zabaraukas launched online crowd funding in order to fund his debut,We Will Riot(www.kickstarter.com/projects/romaszabarauskas/we-will-riot), produced by Zabaraukas' company Naratyvas (Narrative). The director hopes to raise $10,000 in order to cover a short sequence shot in New York.

In February 2012 Saulius Drunga's debut featureAnarchy in Zirmunai, an ironic drama about a provincial girl grappling with the world in a big city, was sold to over ten foreign territories: Italy (Atlantide), UK and Ireland (Peccadillo), Russia and CIS (Kamer Ton Media), Macedonia (KT Films), Taiwan (Multivisionaire), France and Belgium (Optimale), Germany and Austria (Profun). The film was produced by Tremora (www.tremora.com) and Hungary's Katapult Film (www.katapult-film.com).

INTERNATIONAL PRODUCTIONS

Gabriele's SalvatoresSiberian Education (Educazione Siberiana)was shot in Vilnius in autumn 2011 and should be followed by other internationals films as soon as the tax incentive law is be approved in 2013. An adaptation of the Nicolai Lilin autobiography,Siberian Educationwas produced by Italian film company Cattleya S.r.l. (www.cattleya.it) in coproduction with the Lithuanian company Nordic Productions (www.nordicproductions.lt), and stars John Malkovich. The film was also shot in Italy.

FUNDING

Film funding was cut from 2m EUR in 2008 to just over one million Euro in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2011 Uljanos Kim Studija became the first Lithuanian company receiving partial support from MEDIA through the film package sponsorship scheme. The featureTrys draugai ir kiti, by Kristijonas Vildžiūnas, the debut featureOdisėja. R. ir J.by Arūnas Matelis, and the long documentaryPo ąžuolo šaknimisby Audrius Stonys were granted approximately 105,000 EUR (363,000 Litas).

At the beginning of May 2011, the government approved 1.2m EUR (LTL 4,166,000) for film funding, including 310,000 EUR (LTL 1,071,000) for documentaries, animation films, and development funding for feature films. Production support for feature films in 2011 was given to Marius Ivaškevičius'sSanta(Artbox,www.artbox.lt), Ignas Jonynas'sLošėjas(Uljana Kim Studio) and Šarūnas Bartas'sDovydo akmuo(Studija Kinema).

In November 150,000 EUR was granted to the Finnish-Lithuanian co-productionSanta,written and directed by Marius Ivaškevičius.Santais produced by the Finland's CineWorks (www.cineworks.fi) and TV station YLE (www.yle.fi) in co-production with the Lithuanian company ArtBox (www.artbox.lt).

In March 2012 the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture (www.lrkm.lt) announced 1.22m EUR (4,233,360 LTL) in film grants to 14 feature, documentary and animated films.

BOX OFFICE

The year 2011 was also the year when a Lithuanian film broke all records for attendance and revenues, even leaving behind James Cameron'sAvatar. Donatas Ulvydas'Tadas Blinda. The Beginningpremiered on 20 September 2011, and by the end of November it became the most successful Lithuanian movie, with 278,000 admissions. A version of the first historical action movie in Lithuania, the film follows the adventures of a Lithuanian Robin Hood of the 19thcentury.Tadas Blinda. The Beginningis produced by Tauras Films and was distributed domestically by Acme Film (www.acmefilm.com).

Eight domestically produced features and documentaries premiered in 2011. The total box office for all films released was 10.737, 913 EUR and admissions were 3.2m.  

DISTRIBUTION AND EXHIBITION

Lithuania has 95 screens of which 18 are digitalized. There were 186 titles released in 2011 of which 63 were European and two were Lithuanian features. Lithuanian exhibition, like its neighbours Estonia and Latvia's is dominated by the Finnish owned Forum Cinemas.

In February 2012, Lithuania celebrated its comeback on the international sales scene with a stand at the European Film Market at the Berlinale (www.berlinale.de), followed by a second one at the market in Cannes (www.festival-cannes.com) driven by the newly active Independent Producers Association.

In March, the first gay-themed Lithuanian film,Porno Melodrama, was released via free online distribution (www.tlavideo.com/gay-porno-melodrama). The film is directed by Roman Zabaraukas and produced by Zabaraukas through Rain Studio (www.rainstudio.lt). The Finnish company Ikifilmi coproduced.

TV MARKET

Lithuania has three national broadcasters: public broadcaster Lithuanian National Radio and Television (www.lrt.lt), which operates two national television and three radio channels; foreign-owned commercial channel TV3 (www.tv3.lt) owned by Modern Times Group (www.mtg.se) and commercial channel LNK (www.lnk.lt). Commercial channel BTV (www.btv.lt) is owned by Achemos Group (www.achemosgrupe.lt).

Latvia's Lattelecom (www.lattelecom.lv) ended 2011 as the largest pay TV operator in the Baltics, with 230,000 pay TV subscribers. In Lithuania TEO (www.teo.lt) has 147,000 subscribers.

In October 2011 Swedish based Modern Times Group, with emerging market operations in the Baltics and Central Europe, reported a 3% rise in 2011 Q3 sales compared with 2010 Q3 results. The Baltics and Czech Republic posted particularly strong growth, with Q3 sales up 19%.

In December 2011 Lithuanian commercial TV broadcaster LNK (www.lnk.lt) acquired the competitive game show My Man Can from German sales company SevenOne International. The show's debut on LNK was in January 2012. LNK operates 4 channels in Lithuania with a 20% share of the market. Its flagship station LNK TV was founded in 1995 and reaches 1.15 million households.

FNEStepInReporting byCathy Meils.

Report produced by Film New Europe for Step In Locarno 2012

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