Germany's exhibitors' association HDF decided at an extraordinary AGM on Jan 15 to call on the Federal Constitutional Court to examine whether the new Film Funding Law (FFG) is in accordance with the German Constitution.

The exhibitors are particularly unhappy about the different ways in which the ticket levy was decided with the cinemas and the broadcasters. "While cinemas are forced by law to pay the film levy, the TV stations can freely negotiate their smaller financial contribution. The financial contribution of the cinemas is bigger than that of all of the TV stations together, " the association said.

According to HDF president Steffen Kuchenreuther, the review of the FFG is "urgently needed. The cinemas don't want in any way to abolish film funding, but they call on the politicians to place the subsidy [system] on a fair footing."

The association also criticised the "massive reduction in influence [of the exhibitors] in the committees of the German Federal Film Board" and argued that it should have "a commensurate say in the distribution of funds."

However, the exhibitors' action has come under fire from the German film directors' professional body Bundesverband Regie (BVR). Ahead of the Thursday AGM, BVR's managing director Steffen Schmidt-Hug said that their [the cinema-owners'] stand would "endanger the whole of filmmaking in Germany. The functionaries of the cinemas are sawing at the branch of the film industry where all are sitting, first of all the cinema-owners themselves."

Schmidt-Hug pointed out that "after the German cinema's longed-for successes last year with the Oscar for Nowhere In Africa and the cultural and economic successes of Good Bye, Lenin! and The Miracle Of Bern, there is a mood of a new beginning for the film industry after years of crisis. The HDF threatens now with its policy to concrete over the delicate little plant of German filmmaking."

In a statement on the eve of the HDF's Munich meeting, the BVR stated that if the exhibitors went ahead with their complaint to the Constitutional Court, the directors would call on the politicians "to impose the full VAT rate for the cinemas and expand the state film funding from this tax revenue."

Meanwhile, State Minister for Culture Christina Weiss reacted to the HDF's decision by reiterating once more that the disputed increase in the levy paid by the cinemas "amounts to just around 2 cents per cinema ticket, of which half is borne by the distribution and production sector." The HDF decision to lodge a complaint "calls the system of film funding overall in Germany into question," she said.