NEWS

There is no single yardstick by which to measure success

Fourteen Greek films have already been through the trial of the mainstream theaters and the 15th, «Crying?» – a fresh and sentimental look at the younger generation of today by 22-year-old Alexandros Voulgaris – might well be the last. There are, however, another 10 films being produced this year that will most likely never reach the public. Indeed, the Greek/Czech production «Returning in Autumn,» by Giorgos Agathonikiadis, was shown in just one theater and that because it was done so on the director’s own initiative, since he had support neither from the Greek Film Center nor any distribution companies. Another film, «To the Inn» by Giorgos Bakolas, which received the Second State Prize at Thessaloniki, has not been screened at all this year. There is a chance that some of the 10 remaining films will eventually make it to the theaters at some point after the summer, though the majority will most likely remain stored away in boxes. The recipe & the cook It is impossible to pinpoint or explain just what it is that makes one film shoot for the stars and another sink in box-office oblivion. The most eloquent explanation was probably given by filmmaker Thanos Anastasopoulos in a recent interview with Kathimerini: «Cinema is like cooking. There’s a recipe, so you either follow your grandmother’s way or you take some liberties. Using more of one ingredient leads to a completely different flavor. But even if you execute the recipe by the book, you might still come up with something different. That means that you either don’t have the right touch or that your granny kept some secrets all to herself! Who knows…?» In fact, there is no single yardstick by which to measure a film’s potential success, especially as there are so many factors that contribute either to its success or doom. These may be the actual product itself, or the director, the time of release, how long it is out for, where it is out, how well it has been advertised, and so forth. It is a long chain and everyone, from the script writer to the viewer, composes one of the links in it. In the case of «A Touch of Spice,» for example, the production company, Village Roadshow, had guaranteed 150,000 tickets to Boulmetis. «My associates were thinking along the lines of 300,000 tickets. In the end, the truth is that after 150,000 tickets the film passes onto a different plane and things can just skyrocket from there,» says Boulmetis. Giorgos Tziotzios, head of Playtime distributors, also argues that «when a film surpasses 300,000 tickets it becomes a social phenomenon. This year, no other film provoked as much sentiment as ‘A Touch of Spice.’ So, the number of tickets may fluctuate, but the essence stays the same: Greek cinema, barring one or two productions, is itself in a pretty dire state.» This year Tziotzios was responsible for the distribution of three very diverse Greek productions: «The Valiant of Samothrace,» the award-winning documentary «The Road to the West» by Kyriakos Katzourakis and «Atlas (All the Weight of the World),» by first-time director Thanos Anastasopoulos. The last of these was this year’s biggest, unexpected disappointment. Nobody had predicted that it would be on show for just one week and sell only up to 600 tickets. It is a bold and paradoxical director’s film that didn’t even succeed in attracting the art house film crowds it was expecting. The distributor says: «It was a very interesting film for a first-time director, but it cannot really be categorized into a genre. Who was its audience? Well, everybody and nobody. I think it’s a prime example of a film that can do very well at festivals, but not at theaters.» As far as the success of the «Valiant of Samothrace» (which did not, however receive good reviews) is concerned, Tziotzios believes that «it got the tickets it had coming to it. «Its target audience was the run-of-the-mill movie goer, something which occurs rarely with Greek films. It may have been characterized by some as a ‘post-teen lark,’ but it was a clean-cut commercial film with an original twist.» Other films that did well at the box office include Lakis Lazopoulos’s comedy «R20,» which sold approximately 116,000 tickets, mostly to fans of the comedian director. Next came the second film by the duet Michalis Reppas and Thanassis Papathanssiou who had previously broken modern-day Greek box office records with their 2000 production «Safe Sex» with 1.5 million tickets sold. This time around, the screenwriting/directorial duo abandoned comedy and tried their hand at brutal reality with the action-packed dramatic «Oxygen,» which, however, left the audience little room to breathe: As a result, the film did not exceed 80,000 tickets. The fifth place on the box office charts is held by a master of Greek cinema: Theo Angelopoulos with the first installment of his trilogy «The Weeping Meadow.» The film was shown as part of the official screenings of the Berlin Film Festival, it has embarked on an international career, but in Greek theaters it has not, nevertheless, succeeded in selling over 40,000 tickets, at least to date. «What I have observed is that the audience comes out of the theater looking moved. I have observed it during the film’s screenings and on my own journeys around Greece. ‘The Weeping Meadow,’ is, I believe, a film that will pose a challenge to time,» comments Angelopoulos. And the rest After the top five, the rest of the films seem to plummet in ticket sales: Denis Iliadis’s «Hardcore» cut 20,000 tickets, Dimitris Indares’s romantic comedy «Totally Married» tallied 7,000 tickets, Elissavet Hronopoulou’s social drama «A Song is not Enough» ended the season with 5,000 tickets sold, Periklis Hoursoglou’s sensitive look at modern relationships in «Eyes of Night» attracted 4,500 viewers, Katzourakis’s admirable documentary attracted just 2,567, Andreas Thomopoulos’s tribute to late rocker Pavlos Sidiropoulos, «Love Me Do,» cut 3,400 tickets, Isavella Mavrakis’s teen-angst flic «Watch Out! Red Light» tallied 3,000 tickets and, last of all, Nikos Zervos’s «In the Shadow of Lemmy Caution» ended the season with a mere 600 tickets sold.