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Karlovy Vary 2024 - KVIFF Eastern Promises

Industry Report: Market Trends

Is Central and Eastern European cinema following in the Nordics' footsteps?

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The region's untapped potential and growth need to be exploited to the fullest but controlled in order to avoid past mistakes, warns European Producers Club managing director Alexandra Lebret

Is Central and Eastern European cinema following in the Nordics' footsteps?
l-r: Diana Lodderhose and Alexandra Lebret during the panel

On 2 July, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival's brand-new venue, the Imperial Spa, hosted an event titled "Is CEE Cinema the New Nordic?", held during the International Industry Insights session. The talk, moderated by journalist Diana Lodderhose, saw the participation of Alexandra Lebret, managing director of the European Producers Club.

In her contribution, Lebret explained why she has been analysing the common patterns between the Nordics and the CEE region, which, at first glance, may have very little in common. First, she underscored how both regions actually have countries with heavily distinct identities, and which are rather reluctant to co-operate. Back in 2003 at Karlovy Vary, Lebret was very surprised to find out that many Czech producers didn't know their colleagues from neighbouring countries. The first series that has reinforced these countries' willingness to co-produce and collaborate was The Pleasure Principle (2019).

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While looking at economic indicators and patterns, Lebret found that the CEE region is now in a sort of ten-year delay, meaning that it looks quite similar to Nordic countries  a decade ago. Similarly to the Nordic region, CEE is now characterised by strong market growth, a strong penetration of VoD players, and is undergoing a change in terms of content, aiming to provide high-quality productions for an international audience and with higher commercial potential, such as HBO Max's The Informant [+see also:
interview: Bálint Szentgyörgyi
series profile
]
.

In the Nordic countries, a similar situation gradually brought higher competition levels, soaring inflation, too many streamers and commissioning editors in the field, eventually leading to a sudden "crush" and the impossibility "to finance such a high number of productions." Viaplay's downsizing is paramount when it comes to talking about the region's crisis, along with the turmoil the Danish film industry went through in its attempt to negotiate fairer conditions with streamers in 2022, which led to the halting of shoots for about six months. "It's useful to look at these [trends] to avoid [repeating] mistakes," she said.

The figures envision a steep growth for the CEE's film industry, which will be worth €5 billion by 2028. Lebret reminded that only 45% of Netflix shows are shot in the USA and Western Europe is the giant's second market, though already a saturated one. In the CEE region, there's still good, untapped potential, capable of attracting significant investments.

Thus, Lebret zoomed in on the matter of tax incentives. "That [system] has to change. You need to talk to your politicians and convince them to offer tax incentives with conditions, so that rights and revenues remain with [local] independent producers. And it's not something ideological, this already exists in Italy. It's not perfect, but it's a start."

Finally, she stressed the importance of implementing streaming levies and the AVMSD, finding them to be "a way to have a more balanced economy and take advantage of your own growth." 

To date, only some CEE countries have implemented cross-border or domestic-only levies. These include Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Croatia, Montenegro and the Czech Republic.

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