Slovak films attract local audiences

For the second consecutive year, Slovak films are finding success at the local box office, with a market share that could top 20% for 2009 acccording to a new report from the Slovak Film Institute (www.sfu.sk).

While that won't reach 2008's impressive showing, dubbed "the Bathory effect" due to the record-breaking success of the film by Slovak director Juraj Jakubisko, it is a major accomplishment for a country that rarely saw a domestic film in its top-ten in the past two decades.

This year, two films are already in the top ten, with another three Slovak films not far behind. Janosik: A True Story, a co-production based on a local legend referred to as the Slovak Robin Hood, tops the list with 134,000 admissions, a respectable showing in a country of 5 million inhabitants. The bigger surprises are the a pair of smaller films without co-production partners: Soul at Peace and BRATISLAVAfilm. All three films can attribute their strong domestic numbers to savvy marketing campaigns.

As FNE reported earlier, 22-year-old director/writer/cinematographer/editor Jakub Kroner's BRATISLAVAfilm with its youth subculture theme was clearly targeting young audiences through an in-your-face billboard ad that read, "If you don't come, you'll piss me off." The film drew 15,000 viewers in its opening week, and will end 2009 with 60,000 admissions.

Soul at Peace directed by Vladimir Balko had a double debut strategy. The film's soundtrack was released simultaneously with the film, and its main track became a number one hit on Slovak radio. The film had 20,000 viewers in its first week and 117,000 for the year.

Janosik: A True Story from the directing team of Agnieszka Holland and Kasia Adamik, faced a different challenge. With premieres scheduled back-to-back in three territories (Slovakia, Poland, and Czech Republic), and following in the wake of Bathory's achievements one year earlier, the film could have been expected to have an easier path. However, as Violetta Kaminska (one of the film's producers) told FNE, separate strategies and marketing materials needed to be developed for each country. The film's main characted is a cultural icon in Slovakia; local audiences responded to the folkloric elements of the film. Janosik had an opening week-end second only to Bathory's

One unplanned part of the stragegies was beneficial to all three films. Each opened in a different season, with premiered spread across the calendar year, so they were never competing for cinema audiences.

But the biggest revolution for Slovak filmmakers, distributors, and exhibitors is the results of Slovak films across the board. Whereas a typical Slovak film might reach 10,000 viewers in total, eight Slovak feature films distributed in 2009 topped that figure, with a documentary film (Osadne) closing in on the 10,000 mark. The future for Slovak films looks promising, with films such as Mira Fornay's festival success Foxes hitting Slovak cinemas in the coming months.