by editor | 24th October 2010 7:48 am
According to Arif Keskiner, one of the secret heads of Ye?ilcam: “The current Turkish cinema is more independent and more at peace with the Turkish state.
It will of course develop over time!” And in fact, the sector’s annual increase in profits does confirm the above statement. Another hint as to the sector’s development is the fact that viewer numbers in 2008 reached 38.5 million, 7 million more than the previous year, and for January through September 2010, these numbers had already reached 28 million. As opposed to the 14.8 million viewers for January-September 2010 for 40 Turkish films, there were only 12.7 million viewers for 147 foreign films during the same period; these figures go to show the general interest and trust in Turkish films that audiences in Turkey have these days.
There is definitely an increase in the sheer number of film viewers in Turkey, but an interview with chairman of the board of Fida Film, Murat Akdilek, underscores the real growing interest in cinema in Turkey. “Half of Turkey’s population goes to the cinema. In America, this percentage is 6.5 times the population. In England and France, it is about two times that. When you look at the European region, we are one of eight countries that sells fewer cinema tickets than its population. The countries that can sell tickets most corresponding with their population numbers are Russia and Poland. They have reached almost equal levels of ticket sales with their populations. We are in front of Romania and Bulgaria, but in terms of ticket sales trends, we are behind Croatia, Slovenia, Russia, Poland and Lithuania,” he said.
The Turkish film sector saw box office revenues of TL 291 million in 2008, TL 308 million in 2009 and TL 250 million in the first nine months of 2010. Of last year’s revenues, TL 148 million came from Turkish films and the other TL 160 million from foreign films. As of September 2010, the sector’s revenues are going as strong as they were last year. And according to sector leaders, the fact notable films such as “Av Mevsimi” and “New York’ta Be? Minare” have still not come out yet and that it was Turkish films and directors that really made their mark on this year’s Alt?n Portakal Festival, all means that 2010 looks set to break both audience and profit records in terms of Turkish films. In talking about the Turkish cinema sector in general, Keskiner also mentions the role that TV has played over the years in its relationship to cinema in Turkey. He says: “During the 1970s, when the terror events started, the introduction of TV to Turkey also meant the wiping out of family cinema. Following the Sept. 12 coup, the terror events wound down for awhile, but at that time, private TV channels gained power.” He notes, however, that the future of cinema in Turkey now appears much brighter. Graphics that show the numbers of films being shot confirm this hope, he says. According to the Özen Film archives, there were 34 Turkish films in 2006, 40 in 2007, 50 in 2008 and 70 in 2009 that came to screens across the country. In contrast, during the period 1990 to 2004, there were many fewer Turkish films coming out annually.
Abdurrahman Çelik, director of cinema and copyright law for the Culture Ministry, says that by the end of 2010, there will have been 75 Turkish films shown in national cinemas. President of the Turkish Screenplay Writers’ Union (SIYAD) Murat Özer says that the number of Turkish films being shot every year will from now on be around 70, as opposed to lower numbers for preceding years.
Mehmet Soyarslan, the owner of Özen Film, notes that one barrier hindering this sector from developing even faster is the prominence of the pirated goods sector in Turkey. To wit, in 2,225 operations and raids carried out by inspectors and police in the first nine months of 2010, there were a total of 3,130,061 pirated film and music CDs, VCDs and DVDs impounded by authorities in Turkey. It is estimated that there are around 6 million pirated CDs and DVDs on the market right now, with a total value of around TL 90 million. In terms of state tax revenue loss, this means around TL 25 million, and the pirated goods sector is really the largest barrier to the growth of the film sector in general, which means a loss in revenue as well as the loss in taxes for the state.
Profit record for cinema salons
At this point, there are currently 412 cinemas and 1,740 salons in the Turkish film sector. As of October 2010, the average profit per salon was TL 150,000. Last year, the annual profit for cinema salons was TL 165,000. The profit for the previous year, which broke audience number records, was TL 169,000. This year, it appears that per salon profits will be around TL 200,000 by the end of the year.
Özen Film owner Soyarslan talks about the fate of some of Turkey’s traditional, historic boulevard cinemas as a result of the predominance of new shopping centers everywhere. He says, “Right now in Beyo?lu, there are three more cinemas that are on the verge of closing.” But Soyarslan also asserts that there are cinema centers at various larger shopping centers that are not doing that well either. “There are, of course, some that are doing good business; Kanyon and Cevahir are among them. But Astoria is not doing well. And there are many more that are not doing good business. But the real gravity of the situation facing some of these larger shopping center cinemas is being postponed by Mars and AFM operators who say, ‘I will show this film in my busiest salons, but I will also show it at these 30 other salons’.” Soyarslan also asserts that in Istanbul alone, 20-30 more cinemas will be closing down in the near future.
It used to be that 1,000 films would be shown annually in Turkey
A new book, “Turkish Cinema in the 1940s,” by researcher Esin Berkta?, notes the rampant interest in cinema in Turkey during the World War II years. The book points to the fact that between the years 1939-1945, there were more than 5,000 films imported into Turkey. This means that every year during that period, there were around 1,000 new films being shown. Of these, around 80 percent were American films, with the rest imported from various European countries and Egypt. Between the years 1939-1950, during the summer months of June, July and August in particular, an average of 70 new films came to salons every month. At the same time, though, while in 1939 there were 483 new films made in America, 437 made in Japan, 165 in India, 118 in Germany, 100 in Hong Kong and 94 in France, in Turkey there were, by vast contrast, only four films made. Also in 1939, there were only 120 cinema salons in Turkey. By 1945, the number of films made that year in Turkey had dropped to three. But by the time 1948 arrived, the total number of cinema salons had increased to 228, and by 1950, the annual number of films produced was up to 21, with the total number of cinema salons at 275. A report titled “Turkish Filmmakers Matters” published in 1953 in Y?ld?z magazine notes that the sector was at the time a TL 21 million industry, with an annual turnover of TL 8 million. The same report noted that between 1908 and 1945, the sector produced a maximum of two films a year, but that between the years of 1945 and 1948 it produced 52 films, and in following years, there were more than 50 films annually being produced.
According to information from producers, Turkish films cost anywhere from TL 1 million to TL 10 million to make. How much money producers make from these films is based on base ticket sales, of which producers take in about 40 percent. Distributorstake in a 5-10 percent commission from total cinema revenues. As revenues rise, of course, so does the percentage of commission. So the real trade profits for distributors do not come from the size of the market itself but from cinema attendance and ticket sale revenues. 
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