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Swiss films struggle at the box office

Successful films such as Grounding about the collapse of airline Swissair are few and far between.

(Filmcoopi)

Switzerland produces more films per inhabitant than anywhere else in Europe, but most of these movies hold little appeal for spectators.

Film production rose sharply between 1995 and 2004, as did public and private subsidies, but two-thirds of those movies failed to attract more than 5,000 punters.

Over ten years, the number of feature films made in Switzerland climbed from 37 to 61 a year; television movies rose from 55 to 134; and short films jumped from 159 to 278.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, Switzerland produces more than four films per million inhabitants a year, whereas in other European countries the average ranges between one and three.

Yet if more Swiss movies are being shown in Swiss theatres, they are not attracting the paying public. Their market share has remained stuck between one and three per cent since 1976.

Exceptions have been few and far between and not enough to increase the appeal of local productions for Swiss audiences.

Between 1995 and 2004, two-thirds of Swiss movies attracted fewer than 5,000 spectators. What's more, a third drew fewer than 1,500 moviegoers. In 2004, the situation was even more dire with one in two local films falling into this category.

Subsidies

Public subsidies increased substantially between 1995 and 2004, rising from SFr21.7 million ($17.7 million) to SFr64.6 million during that period. On average, the authorities now spend €2.75 (SFr4.3) per inhabitant on local films.

The top countries for subsidies were France, Norway and Denmark. Countries that do worse than Switzerland include Germany, Belgium, Britain, Italy and Greece.

Subsidies for filmmakers from the publicly owned Swiss Broadcasting Corporation – swissinfo's parent company – increased fourfold over ten years.

Funding for films from public and private sources grew from SFr3.10 to SFr8.70 per inhabitant between 1995 and 2004, of which television accounts for more than half.

But despite this money, the statistics office says it is difficult to consider local moviemakers as being part of an industry. There are plenty of producers and directors, with more than 79 per cent of films first or second works.

But nearly all movies are made by small production companies that put out one film per year at best.

Nearly 70 per cent of all producers only released one film over the ten-year period considered by the statistics office. Seven out of ten directors only shot one movie during the same time.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Movie complexes in Switzerland (2005): 323
Movies theatres: 537
Paying filmgoers: 14.95 million
Number of first time films: 383
Average price of a movie ticket: SFr14.34

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