German Film Board Outlines Coronavirus Industry Aid Package

'The Kangaroo Chronicles'

Local comedy 'The Kangaroo Chronicles' was the number one film in Germany just before COVID-19 lockdown.

German group calls for flexibility on theatrical windows as it outlines measures to help theaters, producers and distributors hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The German Federal Film Board, the FFA, has outlined a package of measures aimed at helping members of the industry suffering a financial hit due to the coronavirus crisis.

Calling the impact of the pandemic an “unprecedented threat” to the German film industry, FFA President Bernd Neumann called on the German federal government and states to work together to “find and implement solutions quickly and as un-bureaucratically as possible.”

For its part, the FFA unveiled a series of measures aimed at providing financial relief, including immediately deferring loan and outstanding tax payments from exhibitors and waiving repayment of subsidies owed to the FFA by producers and distributors. The film board said it would not pursue overdue payments.

The measures still require approval by FFA financial backers at the federal and state level, but Neumann said everyone agreed in principle “that we are on the right path [to get] through the crisis together.”

More controversially, the FFA also called on cinemas to be more flexible when it comes to theatrical windowing of feature films. All films that receive film subsidies from the FFA are required to be released in theaters and typically must hold to a strict windowing policy, with release on VOD six months after the theatrical bow. But with all of Germany's cinemas shuttered due to the coronavirus outbreak, the German film industry is looking into possible online alternatives that would allow theaters to generate some revenue.

On Friday, Europe's International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), which represents Germany's largest cinema chains and theatrical industry associations, spoke out against using the crisis to break the theatrical window and release films at home.

Films that do not receive FFA funding are not bound to the windowing rules and the local divisions of the U.S. studios are stepping up on-demand releases, including NBCUniversal with Trolls World Tour and The Invisible Man, Sony Pictures with Bloodshot and Disney with its Pixar animated film Onward.

In a statement, the FFA called on industry players to "exhaust the legal possibilities" for shortening or collapsing theatrical windows, noting that the German law allows exceptions to the windowing rules on a case-by-case basis.

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