Dutch film fund gets OK from EU

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BRUSSELS -- The European Commission on Thursday gave the green light to €162 million ($223 million) in grants for Dutch filmmakers.

The aid will be channeled through two new funds that run through July 1, 2013, with an annual budget of €27 million ($37 million).

The funds will be given in the form of direct grants, and cannot exceed 50% of the films' costs, with possible exceptions for difficult and low-budget films. "The commission is satisfied that the new Dutch film funds comply with EU state aid rules," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said.

In order to be eligible for support, films need to meet at least three out of seven criteria for cultural content and contribution: The original screenplay should be primarily set in the Netherlands or another EU member state; at least one of the characters should be connected with Dutch culture or language; the screenplay should be written mainly in Dutch; the screenplay should be an adaptation of a Dutch literary work; the main theme of the film concerns art, or an artist; the main theme of the film concerns historical figures or events; the main theme of the film addresses cultural, social or political issues relevant to the Dutch population.

The decision comes seven months after the commission cleared a three-year €180 million German film fund, and seven months after the commission cleared tax breaks worth £120 million ($243.5 million) for the British film industry on similar conditions of meeting a "cultural test."

The subsidies are granted an opt-out from the usual EU rules banning state aid if they meet strict conditions that allow governments to fund art and culture.

Last year, 22.5 million cinema tickets were sold in the Netherlands, 9% more than 2005, according to the European Audiovisual Observatory.
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