The future of German film funding is secure after a ruling today by the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe against an action filed by the multiplex chain UCI.
Today’s judgement ends a ten-year odyssey by the multiplex operator to secure a ruling that the German Film Law (FFG) was unconstitutional and film funding should be the preserve of the federal states (Länder).
UCI has also claimed there was unequal treatment between the exhibitors, video industry and broadcasters on the scale of the levies paid to the German Federal Film Board (FFA).
If the judgement had gone UCI’s way, this could have meant almost a third of the annual €340m public film funding in Germany would have been in danger of disappearing.
Moreover, UCI – and its managing director Ralf Schilling – had become increasingly isolated in the German film industry with its arguments against the FFG and FFA in the past months.
The overwhelming majority of cinemas supported the FFG along with the broadcasters, video companies and theatrical distributors as well as the film industry interest groups including the German Film Academy, the German Producers Alliance and the film industry’s umbrella organisation SPIO.
In a first reaction to the Court’s judgment, the new State Minister for Culture and Media Monika Grütters described the end of years of uncertainty for the FFG’s future as “a great success”.
“This is an important step for the future of the German film industry, for the German Federal Film Board (FFA) and not least of all for the industry’s self-image.”
However, the story has an ironic twist since Schilling was elected last week by the German cinema exhibitors association HDF last week to be its representative on the FFA’s main funding committee as the new Film Law came into effect.
It remains to be seen whether he will pass by the opportunity of having a “hands on” involvement in selecting the German feature film projects to be supported.
After all, he had previously argued against making financial contributions to the FFA because it didn’t support commercially attractive films.
“70% of the films funded by the FFA reach on average less than 50,000 cinema-goers. In our opinion, far too many films are funded and we no longer want to contribute with our money to the distribution of FFA funding indiscriminately.” Schilling had said in an interview last autumn.
Alternatively, he may want to avoid being the centre of attention at the committee’s sittings in Berlin by sending his deputy, cinema-owner Annegret Eppler from Universum GmbH in Backnang.