WARSAW: Polish cinema had a strong and challenging year in 2017, with record-breaking box office results, the celebration of 70 years of Polish animation, international success of feature and documentary films, worldwide distribution for domestic titles, as well as new international coproduction agreements and crucial changes within the Polish Film Institute.
In 2017 Poland produced over 45 feature films, most of them supported by the Polish Film Institute.
One of the major Polish coproductions shot in 2017 was the new drama by Oscar-winning Polish director Paweł Pawlikowski Cold War / Zimna wojna, recently acquired by Amazon Studios. Pawlikowski told FNE that the film tells the story of two young people and their difficult love in the 50s-60s. Cold War is a British/Polish/French coproduction between Apocalypso Pictures, Opus Film and MK Productions.
Wojciech Smarzowski shot his new crime drama about the Catholic Church reform in Poland under the working title 3 in August 2017. The film is produced by Profil Film Jacek Rzehak.
Adrian Panek shot his sophomore film Werewolf in July-November 2017. This Polish/Dutch/German coproduction follows eight children freed from the Gross-Rosen concentration camp in 1945. The film is a coproduction between Balapolis (Balapolis), House of Netherhorror and Twenty Twenty Vision Filmproduktion.
In autumn 2017 Jan Jakub Kolski started working on his new drama, the Polish/Czech coproduction Pardon, and resumed work on 15 January 2018. The story is set in 1946 and follows a married couple travelling through Poland with a casket containing the body of their 26-year-old son. The film is produced by Centrala and the director's company Wytwórnia Doświadczalna in coproduction with the Czech company Mimesis Film.
Also in 2017 the master of the Polish action cinema Władysław Pasikowski took on directing the third part of the Pitbull crime trilogy after Patryk Vega decided not to helm the last installment of his hit project. Shooting for Pitbull. The Last Dog took place in Warsaw in October 2017. The film is produced by Ent One Investments.
Oscar nominated Bartosz Konopka wrapped The Mute, a Polish/Belgian coproduction set in the Middle Ages, when two men come to a pagan land - one to bring Christianity, the other to find his way of living. The film is produced by Otter Films in coproduction with Odra Film and Earlybirds Films. New Europe Film Sales is handling the sales and Kino Świat will release the film domestically.
Also in 2017 the acclaimed director Krzysztof Zanussi shot his new feature film Ether, that follows a military doctor at the beginning of the 20th century as he is experimenting with science in order to get power over people. TOR Film Production is producing. The film was shot in Poland, the Ukraine and Hungary in August-December 2017.
In 2017 acclaimed writer/director Andrzej Jakimowski finished his new film Once in November / Pewnego razu w listopadzie, a drama inspired by the political climate in Poland. The film was produced by Zjednoczenie Artystów i Rzemieślników and was domestically released by Kino Świat on 3 November 2017 with 11,176 admissions to date.
Poland celebrated 70 years of animation with special spothlights at the Toulouse Cartoon Forum and MIPCON 2017 in Cannes, showcasing the newest animated projects, resulting in several promising international projects, like Polish Animoon Studio’s and Chinese Animex Animation’s coproduction of the second season of the Polish animated hit series Hug Me. This is the first animated coproduction between the two countries.
The leading distributors of mainstream cinema on the Polish market are Kino Świat, SPI International Polska and Monolith Films.
The art house market is dominated by Gutek Film and Against Gravity.
The new SVOD platform Showmax was launched in Poland on 15 February 2017 with 172,000 subscribers, which is double than what Netflix had on the Polish market on the same day. Showmax offers international film and TV series as well as investment in local content including new episodes of the Polish hit show Ear of the President / Ucho Prezesa, created by Robert Górski and Kabaret Moralnego Niepokoju. The series became an instant hit with over 27 m viewers when its four episodes were first aired on Youtube. Showmax had also teamed up with Polish box office hit directors Patryk Vega and Wojciech Smarzowski, who directed short thrillers that were the focus point of the launch campaign.
Netflix commissioned the first locally produced series in Poland, directed by Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik. The show will be produced by The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Polish The House Media Company. The title of the series has not been revealed yet. The international premiere is planned for 2018.
In 2017 Netlix also teamed up with Poland’s Platige Image and is currently in development with a new English-language series based on The Witcher saga by Andrzej Sapkowski. Platige Image, which sold the adaption rights to Netflix, will coproduce with Polish filmmaker Tomasz Bagiński directing at least one episode in each season of the show. Platige Image signed a contract with Netflix covering the production of the first and potential upcoming seasons.
Popular Polish VOD portals include Ipla, Player (previously TVN Player) and Vod TVP, providing programmes from public broadcasters.
In 2017 TVP launched an international streaming service for TVP Polonia, its international channel for Polish-speaking audiences from abroad. Streaming is available at polonia.tvp.pl. TVP also plans to introduce a VOD service for mobile devices and a stream for Smart TV users.
The leading Polish VOD service from Onet.pl launched O!Dokument, a new platform offering high quality Polish documentaries awarded at international film festivals. The project launched in February 2017 and is supported by the Polish Film Institute.
It was a strong year for Polish features, with Spoor / Pokot by Agnieszka Holland having its international premiere in the competition of the 67th Berlinale IFF, where it was awarded the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize. The film went into regular distribution in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and Norway, and was chosen as Poland’s 2017 Academy Awards bid. Beta Cinema sold it to several territories including China, Turkey, Cyprus, former Yugoslavia, Spain and Andorra.
Piotr Domalewski’s debut feature Silent Night won the top Golden Lion Prize at the 42nd Gdynia Film Festival (18-23 September 2017) with broad critical acclaim. The film was produced by Munk Studio – Polish Filmmakers Association with a budget of 700,000 EUR. The project was supported by the Polish Film Institute with 233,547 EUR / 1 m PLN and also by the Warmia and Mazury Film Fund.
Loving Vincent, a fully painted animation feature about Van Gogh, directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, became one of the most internationally recognised and broadly distributed Polish productions in 2017. The film won the European Film Award for the Best European Animated Feature Film 2017 and was sold to over 130 territories including France, China, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Portugal, Japan, Thailand, Colombia, India, Russia and Brazil.
It was also another great year for Polish documentaries, with EFA winning Communion by Anna Zamecka becoming one of the most recognised titles of the year. The documentary produced by Otter Films, Wajda Studio and HBO Europe, with the support of the Polish Film Institute, won over 20 international awards including the Critics’ Week Award at Locarno 2016, best documentary at Warsaw Film Festival 2016 , Young Eyes Award at DOK Leipzig 2016 and Silver Eye Award at Jihlava IDFF 2016.
Andrzej Wajda's latest production Afterimage continued to generate major interest abroad. In 2017 the film was theatrically released in Canada, France, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, USA and Japan.
Polish box office hits made a big splash on the UK market in 2017. Michalina Wisłocka’s biopic Art of Loving was released in the UK and Ireland by Odeon on 31 March 2017 and made 84,583 EUR on the British market. In October 2017 the Polish box office success Botox, directed by Patryk Vega and distributed by Phoenix Productions, opened at number five in the UK, cashing in 1,133,353 EUR. Polish box office nr 1, TVN's romantic comedy Letters to Santa 3 by Tomasz Konecki, hit the top 10 at the UK box office with 450,655 EUR gross in its first weekend. The film was released by Phoenix Productions in 253 British cinemas on 24 November 2017.
Successful Polish films and coproductions from 2016 continued their journey abroad. Agnus Dei (Aeroplan), Anne Fontaine’s French/Polish/Belgian coproduction, was released by Thimfilm GMBH in Austria on 16 June 2017. The film became one of the most popular Polish productions abroad with distribution in Canada, Spain, Japan, Brasil, Mexico, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, Columbia, UK, USA an Australia. Film Distribution is handling the sales.
11 Minutes by Jerzy Skolimowski was released by Zootrope Films in Portuguese cinemas on 19 April 2017. The film was also in regular distribution in the UK, Portugal and Japan, and is also available on iTunes and Netflix.
Ira Carpelan’s and Jakub Wronski’s animated film Moomins and the Winter Wonderland opened on 500 Scandinavian screens on 1 December 2017 and also in France, Japan and Poland on 22 December 2017. The film based on the iconic series created by Tove Jansson is a Polish/Finnish coproduction between Animoon and Filmkompanie. The film is available worldwide in 23 language versions.
EXHIBITION AND BOX OFFICE
Poland has over a thousand cinemas, 80% operated by big multiplex cinema chains. The leading companies are Cinema City with over 30 multiplex cinemas, 380 screens and 110,000 seats, Helios with 42 cinemas and 49,000 seats, and Multikino with 33 cinemas and 60,000 seats.
Additionally, there are more than 600 one-screen cinemas.
In 2017 Polish cinema saw another record breaking year with an all-time best result of 56 m total admissions and two domestic titles topping the overall box office. Total gross was 254.6 m EUR.
Admissions increased by almost 10% compared to 2016, when admissions were 51 m. The romantic comedy Letters to Santa 3, directed by Tomasz Konecki and produced by TVN, topped the 2017 box office with record-breaking 2.98 m admissions. The TVN series has been on top of the Polish box office for years. Letters to Santa directed by Mitja Okorn had 2.5 m admissions in 2011 and Letters to Santa 2 directed by Maciej Dejczar had 2.5 m admissions in 2015.
TVN's hit is followed by Botox, directed by Patryk Vega and produced by Ent One, with 2.31 m admissions in 2017. This dark medical thriller had 711,906 admissions during the opening weekend, becoming the best domestic premiere in 2017 and the second best domestic premiere in the last 30 years. It also reached the number four spot in Ireland on its opening weekend, with 100,000 EUR and the number five spot in the UK overall box office with nearly 890,000 EUR (which includes the Irish results).
The overall Polish 2017 box office also includes: Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Despicable Me 3, The Art of Loving directed by Maria Sadowska (Watchout Productions, 1.8 m admissions), Sing, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Fifty Shades Darker, Smurfs: The Lost Village and The Fate of the Furious.
The average price of a cinema ticket is 4.2 EUR / 18.6 PLN.
In 2017 the Polish Film Institute received 18.3 m EUR / 78 m PLN from the European Union for the digitalisation and reconstruction of Polish cinema. Polish films are set to be totally digitalised by 2020.
GRANTS AND NEW LEGISLATION
Up to 45-50 films are produced annually with an average budget of approximately 930,000–1.1 m EUR / 4- 4.5 m PLN.
The Polish Film Institute is the largest source of funding with additional funds coming from the television, a well-developed network of regional film funds, as well as private sources. The most frequent coproduction partners for Poland are Germany, France and the Czech Republic, with growing involvement of the Scandinavian countries including Sweden and Denmark.
Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński dismissed Magdalena Sroka as the Director of the Polish Film Institute on 9 October 2017 and Radosław Śmigulski was appointed Director of the Polish Film Institute for five years in December 2017.
In 2017 PISF granted approximately 32.2 m EUR / 135 m PLN through the Film Production Operational Programme for script development, project development and production of feature films, documentaries and animated films. Projects implementing the international promotion of Polish cinema received a total of 2.3 m EUR / 9.6 m PLN in funding. In 2017 the Institute set a new operational priority for productions with micro budgets. The 2018 PISF budget is 48.9 m EUR / 204,132,000 PLN with new genre cinema priority to be introduced this year.
Poland still awaits a tax incentives law. Poland has special production agreements with several countries and in 2017 struck new cooperation deals with Lithuania and Vietnam.
In 2017 the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage held a special competition for feature film projects about Polish history. The winning screenwriters received 132,922 EUR / 565,000 PLN as script development and awards.
Poland has a well-developed network of regional film funds with 12 active funds with Warmia and Mazury Regional Film Fund launched in 2017. Other film funds offering production support as coproducers or funders are: Łódź FF, Gdynia FF, Silesia FF, Lower Silesia FF, Poznań FF, Porkaprackie FF, Krakow FF, Białystok FF, West Pomerania FF, Lublin FF and Mazovia FF.
The Polish Filmmakers Association (SFP) has over 1,700 members. The SFP is involved in the organisation of film events including festivals and major markets. Munk Studio – Polish Filmmakers Association, which operates within the structure of the SFP, produces short films and debut features made by young filmmakers. Polish producers are members of the Polish Audiovisual Producers Chamber of Commerce (KIPA) established in November 2000 in order to protect “the economic and legal interests of the Polish audiovisual sector.” In 2017 the SFP introduced a new grant for cinema distributors.
In 2017 Munk Studio and CANAL+ announced their plans to launch a new 60 Minutes programme to support debut filmmakers with a budget of 237,000 EUR / 1 m PLN for each 60-minute film. The films will be produced both for cinema and TV distribution.
The Polish market has also a very active network of film commissions located in the Lower Silesia, Małopolska, Mazovia, Silesia and Wielkopolska regions and the cities of Łódź and Poznań.
Film Commission Poland was created in order to centralise all these activities as the first source of information on organising production in Poland. Film Commission Poland offers an interactive portal with an online catalogue of locations and Polish film professionals available at http://filmcommissionpoland.pl.
On 1 June 2017 the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Piotr Gliński merged the two leading film institutions, the Polish National Film Archive and the National Audiovisual Institute, into one unit named the National Film Archive - Audiovisual Institute.
Public and private broadcasters are an integral part of the Polish film industry as producers and commissioners of locally produced content.
The leading TV channels in Poland are public TVP holdings with flagship channel TVP1 with 11.3% market share in the second quarter of 2017 (according to the National Broadcasting Chamber), followed by Polsat with 10.31% market share and TVN with 10% market share.
TVP continues to be the biggest source of funds for filmmakers. In 2017 TVP and CDRTV China’s TV Chengdu Radio & Television went into coproduction of an eight-episode documentary series about Polish and Chinese economic relations.
In 2017 TVP undertook a major project The Crown of Kings, a costume TV series directed by Wojciech Pacyna about the life of Casimir III the Great. The show is a local attempt to tap into the costume drama soap opera genre, which became very popular in Poland thanks to the Turkish production The Magnificent Century: Kösem, a big hit for TVP in 2016. The Crown of Kings premiered on 1 January 2018 with a strong average of 3 m viewers per episode.
This year TVP also launched an EU co-financed project that will digitalise its 800 archive productions in the course of the next three years. The budget of the project is almost 19 m EUR / 81 m PLN. The digitalisation is planned for 36 months with 836 unique titles restored from analogue archives to 4K sound and image format. Feature films, documentaries, TV series and TV theatre plays will be restored by a team of 79 Polish specialists.
TVN is still strongly engaged in film production (for example, box office hit Letters to Santa 3) and invests in producing domestic content for TV. As its new original series Belle Epoque hit a record of 2.9 m viewers during the premiere of the first episode, TVN decided to invest in the format, to produce a second season and to sell it abroad.
One of the key players in Polish film production is HBO Polska, a channel focused on supporting original cinema and programming. The second season of locally produced Polish drama The Pack / Wataha, directed by Kasia Adamik and Jan P. Matuszyński, had a day-and-date premiere across HBO Europe on 15 October 2017.
In 2017 CANAL+ produced the second season of its hit original series Teacher / Belfer, with TVN as executive producer. Belfer was the first production after the station's return to production of local programming. The series aired between 2 October and 27 November 2016, with the first episode gathering an average of 267,000 viewers and the final episode 460,000 viewers.
In 2017 CANAL+ also commissioned two new original crime series directed by Maciej Pieprzyca and Leszek Dawid. Opus Film and Telemark are producing.
Polish private broadcaster Polsat introduced a new TV format in cooperation with Ikea Retail, which commissioned and sponsored the first Polish product placement mini-series, House Full of Changes / Dom pełen zmian directed by Kristoffer Russ.
Report by Katarzyna Grynienko (2018)Sources: the Polish Film Institute, the National Broadcasting Chamber