Culture Round-Up: Streaming services face extra tax in Denmark, but is this fair?

Danish Film Institute partially blames them for a huge fall in post-cinema revenue for home-grown films, while culture minister is eager to get a slice of a market worth 2.5 billion kroner a year

Media analyst Claus Bülow Christensen has spoken out at the government’s plans to levy an extra tax on streaming services, which were revealed in the content of its new media package (see separate story below).

The tax (5 percent of their earnings in Denmark) will in theory help domestic film and TV producers produce content, but the likes of Netflix and HBO Max are already doing just that, argues Christensen. 

Last year, they respectively produced the country’s most successful TV shows:  ‘Kastanjemanden’ and ‘Kamikaze’ (see separate story below about the former’s success at the Roberts).

Paradoxical, surely!
“It may seem a little paradoxical to want to tax the streaming services,” Christensen told DR. 

“The likes of Netflix has already been highly active on Danish soil as they need plenty of Danish content to make Danes interested in subscribing.”´

The culture minister, Ane Halsboe Jørgensen, favours a staircase model in which streaming services that already invest heavily in Danish content pay a smaller contribution than those who do not.

Jørgensen cited a 2018 report compiled by Deloitte that the Danish streaming market is worth 2.5 billion kroner a year. 

Streaming services do hurt Danish film, warns DFI
Claus Ladegaard, the CEO of the Danish Film Institute, partially blames the streaming platforms for the poor performance of home-grown films once they are withdrawn from the cinema. 

Back in the DVD rental age in 2004, the average Danish film made 6.2 million kroner following its withdrawal from the cinema. Today, that figure has sunk to 1.5 kroner. 

During the same period, the cinematic performance of Danish films is unchanged, although fewer are being released – an average of 20 a year, compared to 25 in the mid-00s – and film festival appearances are also in decline.

Fewer risks in the future
Ladegaard warns that filmmakers will take fewer risks in the future, opting for safe choices guaranteed to generate audience and revenue, thus hurting diversity and experimentation. 

 “We need to dare to invest if we are to have a new Susanne Bier,” Ladegaard told DR. 

“The typical production company consists of two or three permanent producers. When you are so small, it’s hard to stand up to a streaming giant that dictates the prices.”

New media package to refocus on digital sphere
The government has confirmed a 4.8 billion kroner media package, which will chiefly aim to support and develop the Danish media image, strengthen the democratic dialogue throughout Denmark, and embolden the important role of the media in a digital age. It accordingly proposes changing the way it supports the media, which currently focuses on supporting print journalists. In the future, digital media will also be eligible for funding, and there will be more criteria enabling support for the production of image and sound.

The big winners at the Roberts … and not Trine Dyrholm for a change
Denmark’s Oscar entry ‘Flugt’ (‘Flee’) picked up four Roberts over the weekend: the awards for best documentary, editing, score and sound design. The other big winners were ‘Hvor kragerne vender’, which won best film and director for debutant Lisa Jespersen, 34, who is only the second woman in Danish history to claim the award; ‘Pagten’, which won both major acting awards (Birthe Neumann and Simon Bennebjerg); and TV series ‘Kastanjemanden’ (‘The Chestnut Man’), which scooped four of the five TV gongs it was nominated for, leaving hot HBO Max show ‘Kamikaze’ with none. 

Anglophone theatre group unveils new initiative to support new plays
Anglophone group Assemble Theatre Collective is launching a new initiative to enable aspiring playwrights to develop and test new works. ‘Play Space’, which is chiefly aimed at graduating theatre students, provides logistical support to present new plays to audiences to test their suitability for longer runs. The first such play is ‘Quality Cattle’, an immersive theatre production inspired by ‘Tender is the Flesh’, a disturbing, dystopian novel by Agustina Bazterrica. Running from February 26-27 at Demokrati Garage in Nordvest, the premiere is pay-what-you-decide and the other performances 100 kroner a ticket. 

Sundance Film Festival award for Danish documentary
The Danish documentary ‘A House Made of Splinters’ returned with a prize from the Sundance Film Festival: the award for best directing in the international documentary competition. Like director Simon Lereng Wilmont’s other acclaimed documentary, ‘The Distant Barking of Dogs’, the film is set in eastern Ukraine. It recently enjoyed its European premiere at Göteborg Film Festival.

Ancient wooden cup found in good condition
Archaeologists speculate that an extremely well preserved wooden cup found during excavation work on an old well at Bjellerup Ladegård in the eastern Jutland town of Dronningborg was the exact same drinking vessel used by thirsty passers-by – until one of them accidentally dropped it in! Some 1,500 to 2,000 years old, the oxygen-deprived conditions in the mud at the bottom of the well have enabled the wooden cup to remain in great condition.

Did 18th century Danes smoke cannabis?
Excavation work on the island of Papirøen in the waters of Copenhagen Harbour has revealed a number of 18th century chalk pipes, and now Copenhagen Museum has confirmed it intends to examine them to determine exactly what Copenhageners were smoking 250 years ago. In particular, they want to establish if cannabis was being smoked back then. 

Zoological Museum on the move
The Zoological Museum has confirmed plans to close its current address at Universitetsparken 15 on October 23, with a view to reopening at a new site by the Botanical Gardens in 2024. Visitor numbers have fallen since before the pandemic – down from nearly 95,000 in 2019 to 64,423 in 2020, making it the 77th most visited tourist attraction in Denmark, according to Visit Denmark. At its new location it will share the building with Statens Naturhistoriske Museum and the Geological Museum.

Patience pays off! Dream comes true for Copenhagen-based journalist
It was a dream come true for Allan Mutuku-Kortbæk, an ardent Copenhagen-based journalist who has written countless numbers of articles over the last decade and a half – including a fair number for the Copenhagen Post, of which he used to be the music editor. In 2019, somebody finally took notice of his talent: Penguin Books! And the result is his first published book: ‘Copenhagen Like a Local: By the People Who Call It Home’. Mutuku-Kortbæk takes readers on journeys around the city, combining visual, audio and sensual experiences such as winter bathing and the best coffee in town. Check out the promo video here

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