Cyprus & World News

CYPRUS: Film version of Cypriot sitcom matches 'Titanic' success

13 April, 2019

A movie adaptation of popular Cypriot sitcom ‘Vourate Gitonoi’ is smashing box-office receipts to packed cinemas and closing in on Leonardo Di Caprio’s breakthrough 1997 movie “Titanic” as far as ticket sales go.

In just three weeks of opening in local cinemas, the movie has sold 95,000 tickets and is expected to surpass 100,000  during the weekend, this is almost unheard for a Cyprus film.

Oscar-winning James Cameron’s blockbuster Titanic sold 127,000 tickets which is the benchmark for others to be measured by, although such numbers are unprecedented for a locally-produced film.

The cinematic version of the sitcom ‘Vourate Gitonoi’, revisits its main characters, who 18 years earlier, were living in the same apartment block. The sitcom was famous for its take on the idiosyncrasies of Cypriot society at the time, with a hefty dose of self-effacing humour.

The plot revolves around the building’s owner, Rikkos Mappouros who is portrayed as an archetypal scrooge, even by his own family. Eighteen years down the line, Mappouros has an accident while trying to move his life’s savings from one hiding place to another and loses his memory.

In the aftermath of his accident, his family and in-laws who used to live in the same building discover that Mappouros had stashed away some EUR 19 mln which sets in motion a treasure hunt.

His daughter Kikitsa and his son-in-law Sofronakis, a spoilt Nicosia mama’s boy, are also after the ‘loot’ as they are being chased by banks for a non-performing loan they took to open a hotel. Mappouros’ wife is a guarantor for the loan, without him knowing.

The plot thickens when the rest of the tenants and other relatives of Mappouros, such as his lost son from London, join in the money search. It could be seen as a post-crisis satire of Cyprus society.

Scriptwriter Giorgos Tsiakkas told the Financial Mirror, that he was surprised by the large turnout, especially by cinema-goers who are in the twenties.

“The film is also doing exceptionally well in Athens, where we initially planned to have a three-day screening, but we extended it due to high demand from Cypriot students studying in the city,” said Tsiakkas

He said the film’s success was essentially facilitated by the sitcom’s reputation built in the early 2000s. Vourate Gitonoi aired between 2001 and 2005 with daily episodes with an average viewer rating with between 65-70%. Re-runs of the show are also popular and frequently shown by Sigma TV.

“We know that it is very hard for a Cypriot film to get anywhere these days. Even though the film was a remake of one of the most successful Cypriot sitcoms, the venture was a risk. Costs were high, while we did not receive any grant from the government,” said Tsiakkas.

The scriptwriter said that the production team took a conscious decision not to apply for any state grant as procedures are time-consuming and could have set the premiere of the film back a couple of years.

Costing close to EUR 1 mln, the film has yet to break even, although it is expected to do so and make a modest profit.

“Our film cost around EUR 1 mln, which was covered by our producer and sponsors, attracted by the success of the TV series, but other Cypriot filmmakers are not so lucky to have the opportunity to build on previous success,” said Tsiakkas.

He explained that the state has a budget of just EUR 1 mln to support the local film industry despite the Olivewood promotion to attract foreign investors to make movies on the island.

“Furthermore, while producers of Cypriot films have a difficult time to find cinemas to screen their films, with many having to pay, any proceeds made are slashed by taxes such as the entertainment tax imposed by municipalities which in some case reaches 10% of the ticket price”.

Tsiakkas said that they were lucky to have producer Christiana Nicolaou, former owner of a New York cinema chain on board while being thankful to other sponsors.

The film will be in Cypriot cinemas for as long as demand remains alive, while future plans include screenings in London and Australia where there is a strong Cypriot diaspora.