Brexit Seen as "Dreadful News" for European Films in U.K.

Sony Pictures Classics
'Son of Saul'

Oscar-winning titles, such as 'Son of Saul' and 'Ida,' received grants from the EU's MEDIA program to assist with their release in the U.K.

While much of the fallout from the U.K.'s dramatic decision to leave the European Union is still clouded by uncertainty for the creative industries, among the more known knowns being touted are concerns over the loss of the ability to tap into the EU's MEDIA program.

Several acclaimed U.K. films, most recently Ken Loach's Palme d'Or winner I, Daniel Blake and Oscar-winning doc Amy, received money for both production and distribution from the EU's creative initiative, which funneled around $180 million into British productions between 2007 and 2015. Once the U.K. untangles itself from the EU, though, that access to investment will not be available.

However, it's not only British productions or co-productions that will feel the post-Brexit pinch. While the figures aren't quite as big, the program also offers grants to British distributors to help promote European offerings in the U.K. Between 2014 and 2015, more than €1.2 million ($1.3 million) was invested across 31 titles, each receiving from €13,200 to €64,400. 

But it's not relatively obscure art-house titles that are given a financial boost. Oscar winners including Son of Saul and Ida were given funding, as well as such festival favorites as Force Majeure, Timbuktu, Victoria and the Dardenne brothers' Two Days, One Night, with the money being used to subsidize print and advertising (P&A) spend and enabling distributors to advertise more widely.

"The MEDIA subsidy is incredibly important for foreign-language cinema in the U.K.," Louisa Dent, managing director of Curzon Artificial Eye, tells The Hollywood Reporter. The company is among the U.K.'s biggest foreign-language buyers and the largest recipient over the period, being awarded grants for 12 titles.

Dent notes that the MEDIA team is "very intelligent" in selecting critically acclaimed European films that have commercial potential, giving them them the chance to compete in an increasingly competitive landscape with the major studio offerings.

"Not having these funds available will make distributors much more risk-averse when deciding whether to acquire a film in the first place, and it will certainly mean that some very culturally important films like Son of Saul are seen by a smaller number of people," she says. "In a world where art-house films compete head-to-head against blockbusters in independent cinemas around the U.K., this is dreadful news for our country's film culture."

Although the highest concentration of independent cinemas is, understandably, in London, part of the MEDIA award's conditions is aimed at pushing releases wide across the U.K, something Dent says is "very healthy" for British film culture. Again, this would be hit once the U.K. distributors find they don't have access to the fund to help promote European films regionally.

It may be difficult to ascertain exactly how much the MEDIA program assisted in terms of individual box-office results, but those that received grants have been among the highest-grossing independent European films in the U.K.

Two Days, One Night earned $1 million and Ida $700,000 in 2014 in Britain, with Force Majeure grossing $900,000 in 2015, far and away the film's biggest non-domestic box office. This year has already seen Son of Saul take almost $700,000, making the U.K. the film's biggest international territory outside of director Laszlo Nemes' home nation of Hungary (and a decent contributor to its $6.2 million global haul), while German one-shot crime hit Victoria snatched a similar amount, its third-highest box-office receipt worldwide.

With MEDIA access gone, the impact is likely to be felt not just in indie cinemas across the U.K., but across the continent as a whole.