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Film: Still on Top of the Value Chain
by Becky Tan

The film promoter Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (FFHHSH) sponsored a discussion about the state of film in a world dominated by the internet. Six experts presented their opinions on the financial future – a pertinent topic, which deserved a worthy venue, in this case, Hamburg’s casino at Stephansplatz. We didn’t lose our shirts that day, but instead, came home with new confidence for the future of film.

Participants were the big bosses themselves – not just any small staffer – from Warner Bros (Wilfried Geike), Cinemaxx (Christian Gisy), the Berlinale (Dieter Kosslick), and Studio Hamburg (Carl Bergengrün). Till Hardy represented First Motion, a part of the FFHHSH which, in partnership with six other countries, sponsors films made around the Baltic Sea. Harro von Have (the only participant wearing a suit and tie) is a lawyer from the firm Unversagt von Have, which advises filmmakers. Moderator was Ulrich Höcherl, journalist from Blickpunkt Film Magazine which reports on the film industry.

The good news is that none of these able gentlemen is worried about the future of film in Germany. “The internet is not a danger, compared to the threat of TV in the 1950s.” (Bergengrün). True, film hasn’t been the same since, i.e., fewer people watch a film in a cinema, but, contrary to pessimists, it has reinvented itself and easily defends its niche in the entertainment and educational world. Both film and internet can co-exist for the benefit of both.

Film can be many things: experimental, documentary, for cinema, for mobile phones; nowadays films are being shown in galleries, private apartments and museums. Digitalization has changed the way that a film gets to the public, e.g., via DVD, Blue Ray, video, internet. A film usually goes to DVD four months after is has shown in a cinema. (The U.S. is striving for a two-month hiatus before going to DVD.) Often, films watched on DVD, or the internet, are only successful because they were in the cinema first. A filmmaker can get a start on the internet – see YouTube – but digital products have to be good to get into the cinema.

“The physical cinema building plays a social function. It is architecture and needs to change its ambience to become more social with more audio-visual communication.” (Kosslick)

Most films run about two weeks in a cinema; some popular ones show for four weeks. Last year films brought in Euro 970 million and just 36 films (of which five might be German) were responsible for 60% of this income. Over 130 million tickets are sold annually for about 500 films and 260 play in a Cinemaxx. Of 200 films about 80 will be documentaries. There are clear rules for cinema films, such as: 30 copies must be made.

Film festivals, of which there are 1,000 worldwide each year, have slowly replaced the idea of the premiere and even the idea of program cinemas (which sometimes are forced to show blockbusters for financial reasons). At the Berlinale there were 400 films shown to the public, but 1000 films to film industry representatives who were buying films for their hometown cinemas.

A film that receives financial support from a state financing office (e.g. FFHHSH) must stick to pre-determined rules of marketing and financing. The Filmförderung supports young, up-and-coming film makers, who might be miles far away from the taste of the public, as only 50% of their films ever get into the cinema. Still, they should be supported because we need different kinds of film. There is no similar kind of government subvention in the U.S. – only private investors.