As the world gears up for the Oscars in Hollywood this Sunday, the Turkish film industry is also celebrating its own commercial successes. Revenue from cinema admissions in 2015 reached an all-time high, with locally-made films accounting for over half of all Box Office receipts: TL 361 million (£88.2m) of a total of TL 681.4 million (£166.45m).
According to figures released by Turkey’s film trade publication Antrakt, audience numbers were down by 2% on the previous year to 60.47 million people in 2015. However, an increase in ticket prices meant revenue was up by 4%, with admissions into Turkish movies accounting for 53% of all sales.
Some 420 films were screened in Turkey’s cinemas last year. Of these, 134 were Turkish and 286 foreign films. The United States accounted for 140 of the foreign films, with the bulk of the remainder coming from Europe.
8 Turkish blockbusters in 2015, each seen by over 1 million people
Eight Turkish films hit ‘blockbuster’ status last year, each seen by over 1 million people. Comedy Dügün Dernek 2: Sünnet was the year’s biggest hit, selling 5.8 million tickets and grossing TL 67.2 million (£16.38m) at the Box Office. Mucize, Kocan Kadar Konuş, Ali Baba ve 7 Cüceler, and Bana Masal Anlatma make up Turkey’s Top 5 biggest grossing Turkish films of 2015.
Only three foreign films – Fast and Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens – were watched by more than 1 million Turkish cinema-goers.
According to writer Riada Ašimović Akyol, 21 Turkish movies reached audiences in excess of 400,000, although the bulk – 84 films – seen by less than 399,000, some as few as 3,000.
Turkey’s most successful films overseas proved to be far less popular with their home crowd. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep may have won the top prize at Cannes in 2014, but only 304,782 people watched the film in Turkey. Another award-winning film, Abluka/Frenzy by director, Emin Alper, won the Special Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice Film Festival, yet attracted a mere 16,000 viewers in Turkey. Even Oscar hopeful Mustang, up for Best Foreign Film on Sunday, could only muster an audience of 17,500.
However, the overall picture remains positive for Turkish cinema. Not only was 2015 a record-breaking year in terms of revenue, but also for films produced in Turkey. Antrakt’s report shows a 25% increase in the number of Turkish films released last year, up from 107 films in 2014. It demonstrates the growth in the sector, which between 1990 and 2007 produced on average just 40 Turkish films per year. Antrakt adds that in 2015, a further 137 films were produced, but were not released as they had not struck a distribution deal.
Number of Turkish films up from 40 in 1990 to 134 in 2015
The boom has carried over into 2016, with 40 new Turkish films completed already. Antrakt claims another 400 are in the pipeline: some are at the script-writing stage, while others are filming and some are in post-production.
The popularity in Turkish films is, in part, being fuelled by newer and better equipped cinemas. Over the past few years, over half of Turkey’s 625 picture houses have installed digital screens. Last year, 45 new cinemas opened boosting capacity, with more than 24,000 new seats added.
Turkey’s leading cinema chain is Cinemaximum (part of the Mars Entertainment Group), which has 29% of the market. Its chief executive Muzaffer Yildirim recently said that Turkey’s film sector employs over 100,000 people and the Turkish film market is among those posting rapid growth, with only China and Russia growing faster.
Yet attendance figures in Turkey still ranks low compared to Europe. In the UK, cinema admissions in 2015 generated £1.24 billion and attracted audiences just shy of 172 million people. Given Turkey’s larger population, there is clearly room for considerably more growth in the sector.
Main picture: film poster for Dügün Dernek 2: Sünnet – Turkey’s biggest film at the Box Office in 2015