Polish cinema had a strong year in 2018, with record-breaking box office results, international success of feature films, worldwide distribution for domestic titles, as well as the introduction of long-awaited 30% financial incentives for international filmmakers.
In 2018 Poland produced over 45 feature films, most of them supported by the Polish Film Institute. Polish cinema landscape took a significant turn towards period cinema, with major costume war dramas in production.
Michał Rosa launched the production of his Józef Piłsudski biopic, following the early years of the Polish statesman’ activity from 1900 to 1914. The shoot launched in August 2018 with the postproduction planned for the first half of 2019. The film is produced by KADR Film Studio.
Władysław Pasikowski shot The Courier, a war biopic about Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, one of the most notable resistance fighters of the Home Army. The film was shot in Warsaw and Lódź in the summer of 2018, produced by the Warsaw Rising Museum. The Courier will open in Polish cinemas on 8 March 2019, distributed by Kino Świat.
Maciej Pieprzyca finished work on Icarus. The biopic on the famous Polish pianist Mietek Kosz (1944-1973) was shot in October-December 2018, produced by RE Studio.. The premiere is planned for 27 September 2019 with Next Film distributing.
Lech Majewski started worki on his new drama Brigitte Bardot the Wonderful, based on his novel under the same title. The shoot to this elaborate costume drama launched in Silesia on 6 November 2018 and will continue throughout 2019. The film is produced by Domino Film in coproduction with Majewski's "Angelus Silesius" Association.
Polish company Watchout Studio launched production on The Coldest Game, a spy thriller in English directed by Łukasz Kośmicki and aimed at international markets. The Coldest Game is set in 1962 at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The shoot took place in Warsaw in February-April 2018 and the film is produced by Watchout Studio, which also produced box office hits Gods by Łukasz Palkowski and Art of Love by Maria Sadowska, in coproduction with TVN and NEXT FILM.
Dariusz Gajewski’s costume drama Legions will showcase a love triangle on the backdrop of the heroic deeds of the Polish Legions (1914-1916). Shooting took place in the autumn of 2017 and winter of 2018. The film is produced by Picaresque in coproduction with FINA. Kino Świat will release the film on 27 September 2019.
In the last decade Poland has been continuously involved in a steady number of international coproductions, the growing support from the Polish Film Institute introducing specially designed grants for producers working on international projects.
One of the biggest titles produced as part of this scheme in 2018 was Agnieszka Holland’s Mr. Jones, a drama about the Welsh journalist Gareth Jones, who first publicised in the Western world the existence of the Soviet famine of 1932–1933. The Polish/British/Ukrainian coproduction was shot on location in Poland, the Ukraine and Scotland in February-June 2018. The film is produced by Film Produkcja (Poland), Mandants (Poland), Crab Apple Films (UK), Orka Studio and Film UA (Ukraine) with the support of PFI, the Krakow Festival Office and the Ukrainian State Film Agency. Gareth Jones will premiere in the Competition of the 69th Berlinale IFF and will be released in Polish cinemas in 2019, with WestEnd Films managing the international sales.
My Name Is Sara, a Polish/American coproduction directed by Steven Oritt, wrapped shooting in 2018. This drama following a teenage Jewish orphan who escapes the Nazis and finds refuge in a small village, is a Polish/American coproduction between Watchout Studio and Sara's Story. This is the first production fully financed in the USA but produced on every stage in Poland.
Jacek Borcuch shot Dolce Fina Giornata aka Volterra, with the famous Polish actress Krystyna Janda, in Tuscany in March-April 2018. The film follows a fictional Nobel Prize winning Polish poet played by Krystyna Janda, who leads a quiet life in a small town in Tuscany. Polish company No Sugar Films is producing in coproduction with Tank Production, Motion Group and Aeroplan. The film will premiere at the Sundance IFF in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and it will be released by NEXT FILM in Polish cinemas on 10 May 2019.
Jan Komasa shot his new drama Corpus Christi, a Script Pro winning project about a convict pretending to be a priest. The film is produced by Aurum Film in coproduction with Canal+ and WFS Walter Film Studio. The Polish distributor is Kino Świat.
In the summer of 2018 Daria Woszek wrapped shooting on her debut feature Marygoround, a black drama comedy about an agnostic collector of Virgin Mary statues, produced by Jutrzenka Studio.
The box office hit director Patryk Vega produced two new crime films – a sequel to Women of Mafia, following the gang of Polish women who get involved with a Columbian drug cartel, and Plagues of Breslau, about a female police officer who has to catch a brutal serial killer. Both films were shot in 2018 and produced via Vega’s own company Vega Investments. The director announced that he purchased production rights to the Pitbull franchise and plans to release the new part in November 2021.
In the summer of 2018 Ryszard Zatorski shot There Is No Sin in Bad Luck / Pech to nie grzech, an independent romantic comedy produced by Figaro Film. The film opened domestically on 25 December 2018 with 190,000 admissions in the first week.
A new production company NEM Corp was established in 2018 by Ewa Puszczyńska, the producer of Pawel Pawlowski’s Cold War (Opus Film) and the Oscar winning Ida (Opus Film), together with Klaudia Śmieja, the producer of Agnieszka Holland’s Gareth Jones, and Jan Naszewski of New Europe Film Sales.
The leading distributors of mainstream cinema on the Polish market are Kino Świat, SPI International Polska, NEXT FILM and Monolith Films. The art house market is dominated by Gutek Film and Against Gravity. In 2018 a new distribution company Velvet Spoon was launched on the Polish market with plans to release quality genre cinema.
The biggest Polish distribution success in 2018 was Cold War by Paweł Pawlikowski, awarded top prizes including best director at Cannes Film Festival and five awards at the European Film Awards, including the European Film award. The film was also nominated for the 2019 Academy Awards in the Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Cinematography categories, and it also holds four nominations for the 2019 BAFTA Awards.
Cold War is a Polish/British/French coproduction from Opus Film, Apocalypso Film and MK Production, distributed by Kino Świat. It opened in Poland on 8 June 2018 and racked up over 940,000 admissions. The film was sold into distribution in several international territories including North America (USA, Canada), Europe (UK, France, Benelux, Germany, Italy, Greece, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic, Scandinavia, Turkey), Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), Australia and New Zealand. Amazon is the US distributor.
The year 2018 was great for Polish cinema abroad, especially in the UK, where Wojtek Smarzowski’s The Clergy had over 1 m admissions during the opening weekend, distributed by Phoenix Films. The film was also sold in the USA, Canada, Germany, Austria, Holland and Norway. The Clergy opened in Polish cinemas on 28 September 2018 distributed by Kino Świat and has racked up over 5 m admissions to date, becoming the first ever Polish film to reach that number of admissions so quickly.
Another title of interest for the UK audience was Patryk Vega’s crime comedy Women of Mafia. The film was also a major success in Poland with over 2 m admissions. In the UK, where it opened on 2 March 2018 distributed by Odeon, it had a box office of 692,479 EUR during the first month, ranking 6th in the overall UK box office top ten for March 2018. Its worldwide box office to date is 11.5 m EUR.
Pitbull. The Last Dog directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski and produced by Ent One, debuted in the UK in the 11th place, bringing in over 330,000 EUR by the end of April 2018. The romantic comedy Fake Fiancée / Narzeczony na niby, directed by Bartosz Prokopowicz and produced by TFP in coproduction with Telewizja Polsat and Cyfrowy Polsat, debuted at number 15 in the UK, bringing in 80,000 EUR on its opening weekend. It earned almost 5 m EUR in five weeks in the Polish top 20, when it was released mid-January 2018.
The leading VOD platform in Poland is CDA.pl with its Premium section. In November 2018 CDA.pl had 3.11 m users, 30 m views and over 155,000 active subscribers. The platform has been developed since 2016 and the subscription is approximately 4.6 EUR / 19.90 PLN.
Netflix, which has been active on the Polish market since 2016, released its first locally produced Polish series in 2018. The 8-episode show 1983 was directed by Agnieszka Holland, Kasia Adamik, Olga Chajdas and Agnieszka Smoczyńska, and it was produced by The Kennedy/Marshall Company and Poland’s The House Media Company.. The series premiered internationally on Netflix on 31 November 2018.
In the spring of 2018, HBO launched an HBO GO subscription to all Internet users, separate from a TV cable subscription. HBO continued its engagement in local content production and introduced an original crime series Blinded by The Lights directed by Krzysztof Skonieczny and produced by House Media Company. The 8-episode series became the most popular TV series on HBO in Poland, surpassing Westworld and Game of Thrones, and it ranked 3rd in the top of the most watched HBO productions in the CEE region.
Leading TV broadcasters continued to develop their own VOD platforms. TVP introduced digitally restored hit series from the past, TVN teamed up with nc+ and Ipla, a Cyfrowy Polsat service, introducing a greater number of channels that can be watched live on VOD, and the WP Pilot video service introduced Kino Polska TV channels into its VOD offer in June of 2018.
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 48 cinemas and 70,000 seats. Additionally, there are more than 600 one-screen cinemas.
In 2018 the British cinema chain Vue International, working in Poland under the brand name Multikino, bought Polish Cinema3D. The chain had 11 cinemas in Poland, that were turned into Multikino units. Vue International also plans to invest in three cinemas with 20 screens in Warsaw and Nowy Targ.
In 2018 Polish cinema saw another record breaking year with an all-time best result of 60 m total admissions and five domestic titles in the general box office top 10. Admissions for domestic films surpassed 19.8 m, which is another record for the Polish market. Total box office surpassed 280 m EUR. According to a special report commissioned by Filmweb.pl from Milward Brown in 2018, the average Polish cinema viewer is 21-41 years old and goes to the cinema at least once a month. The average cinema ticket price in Poland is 5.8 EUR / 25 PLN.
Wojtek Smarzowski’s The Clergy topped the Polish charts with 5 m admissions, followed by Women of Mafia directed by Patryk Vega (2.04 m admissions), Planet Single (Gigant Films) directed by Sam Akina (1.68 m), Squadron 303 (Film Media) directed by Denis Delić (1.51 m), Pretend Fiancée (TFP) directed by Bartosz Prokopowicz (1.04 m), Tax on Love directed by Bartłomiej Ignaciuk (1.04 m), Pitbull. The Last Dog directed by Władysław Pasikowski (1.01 m), Cold War directed by Paweł Pawlikowski (930,000 tickets), 7 Emotions (WFDiF) directed by Marek Koterski (850,000) and Love Is Everything (Akson Studio) directed by Michał Kwieciński (620,000).
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 are Germany, France and the Czech Republic, with growing involvement of the Scandinavian countries including Sweden and Denmark.
In 2018 the Polish Government approved the long-awaited bill offering a 30% cash rebate on qualifying film production expenses. The Polish Film Institute will have a 46 m EUR / 200 m PLN budget to refund partial costs of film production in Poland. Ten percent of the budget will be allotted for animated films and animated series. Submissions and the final reports, which will be the base for refunding, must be evaluated within 28 days each, which will make Poland competitive on the international market.
The new Polish law allows up to 30% of the production budget to be refunded once the applicant fulfills the necessary conditions. Polish producers, coproducers and servicing companies are now able to apply for a partial reimbursement of qualifying production costs spent in Poland. The refund will come after the company has signed a special contract with the Polish Film Institute, finished the production, spent the money, paid all necessary taxes in Poland and submitted all the required documents.
In 2018 the Polish Film Institute introduced a new grant category that will support micro-budget productions directed by film school graduates and other debut filmmakers. The "First film" priority grant has a maximum budget of 162,581 EUR / 700,000 PLN for each film. The projects will be produced in cooperation with a national TV broadcaster, which will act as a coproducer with rights to the film.
Poland has a well-developed network of regional film funds with 12 active funds: Łódź FF, Gdynia FF, Silesia FF, Lower Silesia FF, Poznań FF, Podkarpackie FF, Krakow FF, Białystok FF, West Pomerania FF, Lublin FF, Mazovia FF and Warmia and Mazury Regional Film Fund.
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 to protect “the economic and legal interests of the Polish audiovisual sector.” The Polish market also has 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.
In 2018 Film Commission Poland, which was created in 2012, became a part of the Polish Film Institute and it was delegated to promote Polish cinema abroad.
By the end of 2018, the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage announced plans to merge public film production institutions WFDIF, KADR Film Studio, TOR Film Studio, ZEBRA Film Studio and KRONIKA Film Studio into one major film production center in 2019. This will allow the creation of a company with 23.2 m EUR / 100 m PLN of annual revenue.
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 9.73% and TVP2 with 8.16% market share in the second quarter of 2018 (according to the National Broadcasting Chamber), followed by Polsat with 10.23% market share and TVN with 9.38% market share.
The market share of the “big four” (TVP 1 and 2, Polsat and TVN) dropped from 38.24% in 2017 to 37.5 % in 2018. The takeover of Scripps Networks Interactive by Discovery made a huge shift in the power dynamics on the Polish TV market, which will become visible in 2019, as the TVN and Discovery portfolio will hold over 20% of the market share.
In 2018 SPI International’s subsidiary Kino Polska TV took full control over Cable Television Networks & Partners by acquiring all its shares for 2.4 m EUR / 10 m PLN. Cable Television Networks & Partners operates the terrestrial channel Zoom TV holding 0.4% of the market share. The company announced its plans to transform Zoom TV into a brand that will supplement the film offer in the group’s portfolio from both Kino Polska and FilmBox.
TVP continued to be the biggest source of funds for filmmakers. The Polish public broadcaster launched a special competition for documentaries celebrating the 100th anniversary of Polish independence and chose 13 projects that went into production in 2018. All projects are produced by regional branches of TVP with a planned total budget of 236,529 EUR / 1 m PLN.
In 2018 TVP also produced new original war drama series, continuing a successful trend from the recent years. The costume drama series Century of the Guilty is based on the bestselling series of novels written by Ałbena Grabowska and follows a Polish family living near Warsaw from the break of WWI to contemporary times. The series is directed by Piotr Trzaskalski. Endemol Shine is the executive producer and the budget of 230,152 EUR / 1 m PLN per episode makes it one of the most expensive TVP projects to date.
Also in 2018 TVP produced the 13-episode war drama series Roads to Freedom, directed by Maciej Migas, which follows the lives of three sisters who open a weekly magazine towards the end of WWI. The show was created by Stanisław Krzemiński, co-creator of the TVP hit series The Vicarage and The Londoners.
In 2018 Sony Pictures Television Networks Central Europe commissioned the first season of the original crime series Signs from ATM Group, following the successful Ultraviolet series (produced by Opus Film), which was commissioned by Sony for AXN and eventually purchased by Netflix in 2018.
By taking over TVN, Discovery expanded the private broadcaster’s involvement in local content productions, with TVN announcing its plans to produce and coproduce five new films and a mini-series in 2018. The Coldest Game directed by Łukasz Kośmicki and starring Bill Pullman, is an international coproduction produced by Watchout Studio in coproduction with TVN S.A, Next Film and ITI Neovision S.A..
All the Luck directed by box office hit director Tomasz Konecki (Letters to Santa 3, TVN) is a romantic comedy produced by TVN and planned to be released by Next Film on 8 March 2019.
Leszek Dawid’s Broad Peak, the real story of the Polish mountaineer Maciej Berbeka, is produced by East Studio in coproduction with TVN and Canal+..
Hater. Suicide Room, the sequel to Jan Komasa's box office hit drama Suicide Room (2011, KADR Film Studio), is also produced by TVN. The Christmas-themed rom-com Love Is Everything / Miłość jest wszystkim directed by Michał Kwieciński, a coproduction from Akson Studio and TVN, was released in Poland on 23 November 2018 distributed by Kino Świat. The film had over 1 m admissions.
Kinga Dębska’s mini-series Six, also produced by TVN, started shooting in Krakow on 25 September 2018.
Report by Katarzyna Grynienko (2019) Sources: the Polish Film Institute, the National Broadcasting Chamber