Hollywood's Man in Istanbul Talks Turkey

By Vivarelli, Nick | Variety, February 10, 2017 | Go to article overview

Hollywood's Man in Istanbul Talks Turkey


Vivarelli, Nick, Variety


AS PINEMA FILMCILIK, Turkey's top local distributor of Hollywood and international films, celebrates its 25th anniversary, the company's founder and chief executive Pamir Demirtas makes no bones about the fact that for the domestic film industry, these are tough, turbulent times.

With the country reeling from the fallout from a failed coup, terrorist attacks, and economic turmoil, in 2016 the dollar value of the year's total Turkish box-office grosses dropped 10% to a total $226 million, according to comScore, just as the Turkish lira lost 17% against the dollar, and "U.S. movies were among those that suffered the most," Demirtas says.

"In terms of my business, I had a big crisis in 1994 when [due to the Mexican currency crisis] the dollar rate [to the Turkish lira] tripled. But even that wasn't as bad as today: it's a real challenge."

That was the same year that Pinema - the company's name blends Pamir and Cinema - and Demirtas got their big break. After landing a deal with Summit Entertainment, he released atmospheric fantasy pic "The Crow," which soared with Turkish audiences.

On the strength of that success came a multi-picture agreement with PolyGram that included "Trainspotting" and "Sleepers." Demirtas then rapidly wove a wide net of connections overseas and became known in Hollywood as the man with the pulse of a difficult to navigate market with plenty of potential. Turkish admissions have more than doubled since then.

These days, Pinema has a close rapport with STX, DreamWorks/Amblin, FilmNation, Millennium/ Nu Image, Arclight, the Weinstein Co., and IM Global, among other Hollywood outfits.

To describe difficulties he is contending in the country's current climate, Demirtas recounts how Mel Gibson's "Hacksaw Ridge" was received in Turkey where Pinema released it Dec. 25, six days before the Istanbul nightclub massacre by an ISIS gunman.

"I was very upset with the reactions," he says. "We had some very upsetting comments on Facebook, such as 'Why the fuck would I want to watch an American hero when Turkish people are dying on the streets?'" In the immediate aftermath of the terror, Gibson's pacifist but bloody World War II drama only made a measly $130,000 in Turkish cinemas. …

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