Estonian films attracted an audience of more than 600,000 in 2018, over half of whom saw films produced as part of the Estonia 100 centennial film programme.
The audience for Estonian films saw significant growth on year, from 282,421 viewers in 2017 to over 600,000 in 2018. According to the Estonian Film Institute (EFI), this year's surge in numbers was primarily a result of bigger numbers of people going to see films produced as part of the Estonian centennial film programme.
To date, the programme's opening film, "The Little Comrade," has been seen by over 116,000 viewers. "Eia's Christmas at Phantom Owl Farm," meanwhile, which only just premiered at the beginning of December, crossed the 110,000-viewer mark in less than a month.
In third place is "Take It or Leave It," Estonia's pick for the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film, with an audience of 57,000. The documentary "The Wind Sculpted Land" has been seen by over 41,000 viewers, a significant audience for a documentary.
Other films screened as part of the Estonia 100 film programme included "Jaan from Hell" and "Roots," a collection of short documentaries.
EFI director: Interest in Estonian films growing
Over the past year, more than 330,000 viewers saw films screened as part of the Estonia 100 programme, surpassing the total audience size for Estonian films altogether in 2017.
According to EFI director Edith Sepp, these figures speak to the audience's genuine and growing interest in Estonian film.
"Competition for film screenings is fierce in Estonia, as nearly 300 films screen here every year," Ms Sepp highlighted. "This year, there are as many as three Estonian films in the box office top ten, and the market share of Estonian films is over 15%. This is a result we have been dreaming of for years."
Financing from the Estonia 100 film programme gave Estonian filmmakers an exceptional opportunity, and the results demonstrate that this was very much the right decision, she added.
"Take It or Leave It" producer Ivo Felt likewise said that the Estonia 100 film programme for a short time took Estonian film to an entirely new level.
"Premiere films by young directors have drawn unprecedented audience numbers to cinemas and have proved successful at international festivals as well," Mr Felt highlighted. "Feature film production capability has increased significantly as well. However, as the special programme is set to end, significantly fewer new films will be shot over the upcoming year. It remains to be hoped that young talent will not go seek their fortunes elsewhere and the film field will not see a dismal contraction."
Throughout the year, a total of 14 Estonian feature-length films, ten documentaries and three sets of short films screened in Estonia. This year's most-viewed Estonian film was "Class Reunion 2: A Wedding and a Funeral," which was seen by more than 146,000 viewers.
Two more centennial films to be released
Two more Estonian films produced as part of the centennial film programme will screen in early 2019 — the animated "Lotte and the Lost Dragons" will premiere in cinemas on 4 January, while the feature film "Truth and Justice" will premiere on 22 February.
A total of five feature films, a full-length animated film, two documentaries and a television series were released on the occasion of the Estonian centennial.
Editor: Aili Vahtla