German film industry warms to Munich fest

Platform to launch smaller independent titles

MUNICH -- The Munich International Film Festival, which kicks off Friday, has long been considered the equivalent of summer break for the German film industry. The picturesque setting and relaxed atmosphere of Germany's second-largest fest stands in sharp contrast to the business bustle that surrounds the Berlinale.

But German distributors have begun to see Munich, now in its 25th year, as more than just a place to catch up on the films they missed at the "A" festivals. Increasingly, the industry is using the event as a platform to launch smaller independent titles.

"We never used to think of Munich that way, but last year we got great publicity and attention for both our films 'The Band's Visit' and 'Runaway Horse,' " Markus Zimmer, managing director of indie distributor Concorde Film told The Hollywood Reporter. "It definitely helped the boxoffice of both films. 'The Band's Visit' earned 720,000 euros ($1.1 million), which might not sound like much, but is extremely good for a small Israeli film in Germany."

This year, Concorde is back with Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" which was the closing night film in Cannes and will have its German premiere in Munich on Wednesday.

But Concorde isn't alone. Prokino is using Munich to bow Italian mafia drama "Gomorrah," Kinowelt is using the festival as a platform for its '60s German period piece "Friedliche Zeiten," Senator has several titles in the official lineup, including "Cloud 9," "Son of Rambow" and "Young@Heart" and tiny Tiberius Film is using the extra publicity to drum up interest for Sigourney Weaver/Kate Bosworth starrer "The Girl in the Park."

"Munich isn't Berlin, there isn't that kind of attention, but it is still a great place to launch a film for the German market," Kinowelt distribution head Georg Miros told THR. "Other than Berlin, Munich is the only German festival that gets the press attention you need."

With no official market and few world premieres, there's little danger the Munich Film Festival will lose its casual charm anytime soon. But for small films looking for a boxoffice boost in Europe's biggest territory, the Bavaria fest can be just the ticket.

The 25th annual Munich International Film Festival runs through June 28.