Audience Interest In Latvian Films Has Doubled
Results from a summary of local box office statistics for the first half of the year show impressively positive dynamics. During the first half of 2018, overall attendance for all newly released Latvian films exceeded 290,000 – almost 100,000 viewers more than in all of 2017. Films produced within the framework of the Latvian Films for Latvia’s Centennial programme, for which the audience has by now exceeded 206,000, is a notable part of this statistic.
The data for the distribution of Latvian films shows that during the period from 1 January to 30 June 2018, four Latvian films have reached the Top 10 in attendance. Moreover, three of the films have remained in the Top 10 since April, when first quarter results were summarized. Even more impressively, Latvian films are in the Top first two places, ahead of the world-popular romantic drama by Universal Pictures, Fifty Shades Freed (Top 3), and any other films launched in Latvian film theatres this year. Two out of the four Latvian films in the Top 10 were produced within the National Film Centre of Latvia’s Latvian Films for Latvia’s Centennial programme. These films are the features Paradise 89 (dir. Madara Dišlere, Tasse Films) and Bille (dir. Ināra Kolmane, Film Studio Deviņi).
Since 1 January 2018, the highest audience attendance was for the feature The Pagan King, directed by Aigars Grauba, produced by Andrejs Ēķis, (premiered 17 January; 81,789 viewers by 30 June), followed by The Foundation of Criminal Excellence from director Oskars Rupenheits (premiered 2 February, 74,347 viewers). The Top 5 position is taken by Paradise 89, directed by Madara Dišlere (premiered 22 February, 53,083 viewers), while Top 9 belongs to Bille by Ināra Kolmane (premiered 20 April, 39,778 viewers).
Attendance statistics for all Latvian films have not yet been amassed (traditionally done at the end of the distribution year), though currently available figures (Top 20 attendance and Films for Latvia’s Centennial) show a notable increase in Latvian cinemagoer interest in national film productions. During the first half-year, the total audience number for the abovementioned films was 290,013, while the overall attendance for Latvian films in 2017 was only 194,083. This was still a notable rise, though, in comparison to 185,782 in 2016 and 103,598 in 2015.
As a result, the market share – the key criterion for a country’s national cinema showing the percentage of total audience numbers that watched domestic films – of Latvian films has experienced important growth. The market share indicator for domestic films during the last five years has not exceeded 7.84% (2017), but the average indicator for the first half of 2018 is 24%. Dita Rietuma, Head of the National Film Centre, emphasizes: “The market share growth of national cinema is not only of emotional nature. It’s important to note that with the Films for Latvia’s Centennial programme and overall industry funding growth, the production of Latvian films has increased in comparison to previous years, thus also increasing the number of films and the diversity of genres, allowing viewers to find films they are interested in.”
The facts confirm that the National Film Centre’s programme, Latvian Films for Latvia’s Centennial, plays an important role in these positive processes. The programme includes 16 full-length films, eight of which have been released and have garnered 206,478 viewers – since the August 2017 release of the first Centennial film, the family feature Grandpa More Dangerous Than Computer (dir. Varis Brasla, Studio F.O.R.M.A.). It is noteworthy that most of these eight Centennial films are still playing in theatres or at special screenings across Latvia, and so the number of viewers continues to grow. In addition, in early September, the second stage of Centennial film premieres will begin with the release of the remaining eight films. Apart from the abovementioned feature films, the documentaries The Wounded Rider, Eight Stars, To Be Continued, Mērija’s Journey and The Last Pagans of Europe, should also be cited.
The first autumn-premiere of a Centennial film will be on 5 September, when the three Baltic States will symbolically celebrate the centennial together. The Latvian- Lithuanian-Estonian co-production, Bridges of Time, produced by VFS Films, will be released. In July, the documentary had an ambitious premiere in competition at Karlovy Vary IFF. Latvian director Kristīne Briede and her Lithuanian colleague Audrius Stonys have made a film about their predecessors, the now-legendary Baltic documentary filmmakers, who, in the 1960s, opened new horizons in cinematic language, visual poetics and content versatility. The film’s protagonists are the famous Latvian documentary film directors and photographers, Ivars Seleckis, Aivars Freimanis, Uldis Brauns and Herz Frank, Estonians Mark Soosaar and Andres Sööt, and Lithuanians Robertas Verba and Henrikas Šablevičius. The premiere of Bridges of Time on 5 September will open the annual Baltic Sea Documentary Forum, organized by the National Film Centre of Latvia in cooperation with the European Documentary Network and with the support of Creative Europe Media.
Another Centennial film in September will be the feature Homo Novus (dir. Anna Viduleja, based on the novel by Latvian classic writer Anšlavs Eglītis, Film Angels Productions).