Country Focus: Belgium
2008 sees box office split
by Aurore Engelen
The last Belgian title to surpass 1m admissions was Koko Flanel in 1990, a bygone era when the serious competition from DVDs and legal and illegal downloads was still just a bad dream. It is now probable that Loft will outstrip the 1,082,000 viewers attracted by its predecessor, especially as the film still ranked third at the Flemish box office last weekend.
However, Belgian exhibitors are doing quite badly. The 2008 figures are far from encouraging. With 21.2m admissions garnered in 2008, the score is 3.7% lower than in 2007, i.e. the worst score since 2002, according to the Belgian Cinema Federation.
The results are dominated by two films which alone account for almost 10% of admissions: Loft, and European hit of the year, Welcome to the Sticks [trailer], which drew around 940,000 viewers in French-speaking Belgium. Two European films thus claim the top two places in the 2008 Belgian box office rankings. They are followed by Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Kung Fu Panda, which trail far behind.
Moreover, whereas on the Dutch-speaking side Flemish films enjoyed historic success, on the French-speaking side, it was a disappointing year. Despite the pleasing performance of Lorna’s Silence [trailer, film focus] and Eldorado [trailer], the total number of admissions for majority and minority Belgian francophone productions won’t go down in history.
The year 2008 will therefore be remembered for the Cannes triumph of Belgian francophone film, as we await the major releases of 2009, which promise more encouraging box office results. Forthcoming titles include Jaco Van Dormael’s Mr Nobody, A Town Called Panic by Patar and Aubier, Stijn Coninkx’s Sœur Sourire (“Sister Smile”), and minority co-production Le Petit Nicolas (“Little Nicolas”).