The Poles often like to exaggerate the role of the Polish film on the international arena. Although Roman Polański, starting with his first production “Nóż w wodzie” (Knife in the Water), has been for many years recognized as an important name in the film circles, the rest of the Polish productions and filmmakers, even the outstanding one, like Wajda, are anonymous to the world viewer. It is the American movies that, also in Poland, dominate the film market.
It is not that the Poles do not make movies, they do, and some are pretty good, but they find it impossible to compete with the expensive Hollywood productions. Most of the time, the Polish films never even leave the mother country.
Where movie going is concerned, which is a change in comparison with the past, the Poles do not go very often to the movies. There are many reasons for it: the rising prices of the tickets, the low quality of the films being shown; also Internet piracy and the DVD-loans, like elsewhere, are certainly two major factors. (Besides, not everyone enjoys a neighbor making smacking, sucking and chewing noises while pigging out on popcorn and coke.)
The number of Polish viewers is constantly falling: in 2005 only 20 million tickets to the movies were sold, 30% fewer than the previous year, thus, on average a Pole sees a single film a year!
It is only foreign films like “Shrek”, or “Lord on the Rings,” both shown in 2004, that attract large throngs of viewers to the movies. On the other hand, and it is typically a Polish phenomenon, that the most popular production of 2005 was a catholic documentary, "Karol – a man who became Pope" seen by almost two million viewers.
Rather than going to the movies, the young Poles prefer watching DVDs in the company of close friends or family, rather than strangers, which in the long run does not bode well for the future of the Polish movie theatres.
When it comes to the Polish productions the Poles prefer uncomplicated love comedies like "Nigdy w życiu", (Never again), which in 2004 attracted a record million and a half Polish viewers. (As a comparison a drama "Skazany na Bluesa" (Doomed to blues) about a Polish singer of a rock group “Dżem” (Jam), the most popular Polish film of 2005, attracted 200,000 viewers, which is still an impressive number taking into account, that most Polish titles, unfortunately, do not attract more than a few thousands visitors.)
In today’s Polish film market there is very little place for “ambitious” projects - just like in the West - it is all about commerce at the box office.
As an insider states, the fact that “the Polish films are not up to the standards is due to the corruption in the film industry. The funds are not given to the people that deserve it, but to people with contacts, who are mostly useless wannabes.”
There is also disenchantment with the kind of movie theatres that are being built nowadays. Those huge, soulless monoliths, that have very little with culture in common, discourage the people to come, while the old, cozy cinemas of the past are being fazed out. It is yet another reason why the Poles prefer to stay at home and watch serials instead of going to the movies: as a comparison with the falling numbers at the movies, the TV-serial, “M jak Miłość" (M for Love), had a whole 12,5 million viewers.
The Poles, if they go to the movies at all, choose primarily foreign titles, because they are simply better. Many complain that Polish movies often have absurd, uninteresting plots. In general, it is perceived, that there is a lack of talent, which manifests itself in the many inferior productions.
The Polish filmmakers do try new angles, political comedy is another lately exploited area. Another genre, that the Poles in general embrace, are “historical” films made about the Polish past based on books by the most outstanding Polish writers. The latest one, "Stara Baśń" (The Old Fable) has been received with mixed feelings. Although there is simply not enough money to produce the kind of movies, that can compete with Hollywood, there have been quite a number of films in this vein: “Ogniem i Mieczem” (By Fire and by the Sword), “Quo Vadis”, “Wiedźminem”, “Pan Tadeuszem” (Sir Thaddeus).
One viewer states that “the Polish films are as good as French or Italian” and recommends Polish films like: “Rękopis znaleziony w Sarragossie” (The manuscript found in Saragossa), ”Pociąg” (The Train), “Pan Wołodyjowski” (Sir Wołodyjowski) and “Upał” (Heat).
Many Poles turn to older Polish movies, like the comedies of the past. “Jak rozpętałem drugą wojnę światową” (How I started the Second World War), “Sami swoi” (Family and Friends), “Rzeczpospolita babska” (The Female Republic) or “Wiosna Panie sierżancie” (Spring, Seargent) are perceived as the funniest, much more funny than the current productions like “Kiler”.
Another viewer states: “I don’t watch Polish films, as a rule. Lately, I went to see “Pręga” (The stripe). Not bad, but like all the rest, gray and gloomy. Why are all Polish films either negative or stupid? Is it because the Polish reality is like that? The films before the Second World War were different. About how beautiful life can be… during the socialist years the films were also sad and difficult. I’d like to watch a happy film, not the naturalistic junk where they show dirty toilets and shabby people.” Not happy words.
The Polish film industry is in crisis. In part the situation reflects the changes in the society where computers and DVDs have taken over and where the globalization resulted in that everyone drinks Coke and watches “Star Wars”. Just like the music industry, the film industry needs to reinvent itself in order to survive. Giving the audience films that make them feel frustrated is not a solution that will bring more Poles to the movies.