After years of cutbacks and uncertainty, there is a new surge of optimism running through the Dutch industry.
This is being driven by the Government’s announcement late last year of a new €20m cash rebate fund and by the increasingly robust performance of Dutch films at the local box office.
Speaking during the IFFR, Doreen Boonekamp, CEO of Netherlands Film Fund, confirmed that Dutch films had a 20.5% market share in 2013, up from 15.8% in 2012.
Several local films were box office successes last year.
“Usually, the bigger market share (for Dutch films) is caused by one or two titles. Last year, there were a lot of films that attracted more visitors,” Boonekamp pointed out.
Among the 2013 local hits were nature documentary The New Wilderness, which sold well over 400,000 tickets, romantic comedy Soof (which made more than $6m at the local box office), kids’ movie Mees Kees op kamp and box-office phenomenon Loving Ibiza ,which ranked fifth in the chart for the year.
As Boonekamp noted, more than 20 Dutch films in 2013 attracted more than 100,000 admissions.
“The share is built by a much wider lot of films than it used to be. That is good because it really strengthens the industry,” Boonekamp said.
“We all know that years ago, it [Dutch cinema] wasn’t popular at all and it was really hard to get anyone to see Dutch films but over the years, the industry has really professionalised.
“There has been a great effort on marketing to really move the films toward the public and make them know. And, of course, the technical quality has grown as well as the quality of storytelling.”
“It used to be that at a sneak preview of a Dutch film, people would just run out during the opening sequence,” joked Eye International’s Claudia Landsberger.
“The whole image of Dutch film has completely changed, 180 degrees, People now really like to go and see Dutch movies.”
Plans for production boom
With new funding shortly to come on stream, producers are already putting plans in place to take advantage of what is now expected to be a mini-boom in Dutch film production
“In recent years, it was quite tough in the industry to get film production finance. They [producers] were not able to attract interesting international production to the Netherlands,” Boonekamp noted.
This fund is awaiting EU state aid approval.
“We are aiming for approval by May,” Boonekamp commented. This would enable the new fund to be launched formally with full fanfare at the Cannes Festival.
The fund has set aside €200,000 in financial support for foreign distributors picking up Dutch movies.
There has also been a new emphasis on co-production treaties and alliances. The Dutch have struck partnerships with countries from Denmark and Norway to Germany and South Africa.
All this activity is expected to boost the Dutch post-production sector. This had been creaking in the face of fierce competition from Belgium and its Tax Shelter system.
Once the new co-production fund is up and running, Boonekamp and her team will have a war chest of €44m a year to invest in production (€20m from the new cash rebate fund and the €24m that was already in place).
This doesn’t include funding from the broadcasters which will bolster coffers yet further.