– With over 1.5 million admissions, DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman’s film, which is also the Polish Oscar entry, has landed in fourth place overall at the national box office

The Peasants is the most successful Polish film of 2023

The Peasants by DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman

Polish cinema attendance is on the rise in the wake of COVID-19; however, as in many other European countries, the task of getting the audience back into the dark rooms is proving much harder for local titles. The first half of 2023 demonstrated this dynamic, with the most popular title, Heaven in Hell by Tomasz Mandes, racking up fewer than 500,000 admissions. The last quarter of the year proved to be more prosperous for Polish cinema, however, thanks to The Peasants [+see also:
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, which opened in local theatres on 13 November, surpassing 1.5 million tickets sold. The hand-painted film directed by DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman is also the Polish Oscar entry (see the news), and is getting an international release in December (in the UK) and in 2024.

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The first box-office runner-up, Green Border [+see also:
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, is the most recent, Venice-awarded effort by Agnieszka Holland, which has managed to reap 762,000 admissions. The film, which depicts the refugee crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border, faced a huge backlash from right-wing figures in Poland, but also received a great deal of heartfelt support from the arthouse audience. A family-orientated live-action flick, O psie, który jezdzil koleja, about a dog that rides on a train, helmed by Magdalena Nieć, came third with 717,000 admissions, while the comedy In-Laws 2 came in in the fourth spot with 624,000 tickets sold. The list of the top five local titles is rounded off by the aforementioned Heaven in Hell.

The Peasants’ results also saw the film take fourth place at the overall box office, which was dominated by the US-produced Barbie: The Movie (2.8 million admissions), Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2.4 million) and Oppenheimer [+see also:
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(1.9 million). The Peasants’ performance even surpassed the expectations of the industry, as most people had predicted it would only achieve one million admissions. “Meanwhile, the film is working phenomenally and has had a chance to surpass 1.7 million,” Michał Broniszewski, head of theatrical distribution at Galapagos Films, tells Cineuropa. “Also, the great figures for O psie, który jezdzil koleja have been the best result for a Polish family movie since Gavin Hood’s In Desert and Wilderness [which premiered in 2001], which shows the need for more projects for family and child audiences, especially those based on books,” he adds.

He also notes that the impressive attendance levels for top Polish films does not yet represent a reason for extreme optimism. “We’re talking about five or six titles here, and there is still a big group of Polish films that are unable to surpass 100,000 or sometimes even 50,000 admissions, regardless of their wide promotional campaigns,” explains Broniszewski. “The discussion remains open as to what the entire industry can do to aid local productions, how to work on stimulating [interest] in Polish movies in cinemas, maybe lowering the ticket price, and finally what type of projects should be made to attract audiences to theatres.”

The numbers should continue rising slowly until the end of the year, with only two more theatrical releases on the cards: the documentary Vika by Agnieszka Zwiefka and the animation Kicia Kocia for Christmas by Marta Stróżycka.

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