Film industry

The Czech film industry dates back to the earliest days of cinematography. The first local feature was shot here in 1896. The first film studios in Czechoslovakia opened in 1931, turning Prague into a one of the leading production facilities on the European continent.

In recent decades, the Czech Republic has experienced a boom in international productions, giving Czech film crews opportunity to learn from the the world’s leading cinematographers, directors and producers.

Czech skills are up to date. In addition to the many international productions that shoot here each year, the local film industry produces regularly about 60 domestic features and full-length documentaries each year.

Thanks to the high volume of film production in the Czech Republic, local film production companies are highly experienced and enjoy advantageous relationships with local talent and suppliers.

Working with local partners makes your production simpler. Czech producers and production service providers are experts in accessing Czech and European support programs, obtaining filming permits and in fulfilling the various tax and legal requirements international productions face.

Contact our team to find out how filming in the Czech Republic can help your production.

History in a nutshell

The Czech Republic has more than a century of filmmaking experience, from the earliest days of cinematography up to the latest and most technically sophisticated productions, and has always attracted international filmmakers. The first film shot on the territory of today’s Czech Republic, The Horitz Passion Play, was produced by an American company in 1897 and in its time was a highly demanding “blockbuster” – a film crew led by William Freeman captured the historic religious spectacle. Aside from captivating nature and the colorful countryside, the filmmakers were deeply attracted to Prague, a magical city with unique architecture. In 1913 one of the world’s first horror films, the German Der Student von Prag, was shot here.

After the WWI, Prague became the regional center for American distribution. A branch of United Artists was founded in 1921 and a year later Universal, followed by Fox, MGM, Paramount, and RKO. Experience with American methods of work, company management, advertising, and market research influenced a number of prominent Czech artists who started careers with Hollywood affiliates. The establishment of the new and well-equipped Barrandov Studio (1931) in a modern complex near the center of Prague also attracted foreign production companies. The owner, at that time the most important Czech film entrepreneur, Miloš Havel – the uncle of the later Czech President Václav Havel – maximized capacity not just for domestic production but also for foreign work. In 1936 French director Julien Duvivier, for example, filmed a truly ambitious Golem movie here, the Jewish mystic tale of a man-made figure brought to life. Barrandov saw nearly 300 feature films produced by the start of WWII and the sum of Czechoslovakian pre-war work totals 1,300 pictures.

During the Nazi occupation, the Germans forcibly bought Barrandov and added three new modern stages, transforming the complex into one of the most important centers for the European film industry. By the end of the war, with the Allies’ bombs having destroyed studios on German territory, all the major filmmakers from Munich and Berlin turned to Prague. Over the course of the war, more than 80 German films were shot in the Czech protectorate. In 1945 the Nazis were immediately replaced by Soviets, who took advantage of the skills and experience of Czech crews to record propaganda features. Only at the beginning of the 1960s did the nationalized film industry resume accepting contracts from the USA, Great Britain, and West Germany. The culmination of the opening of Barrandov Studio to the West came in 1968, with the war movie The Bridge at Remagen (1969) shot in and around the studios.

The 1960s also saw a boom and international success for the domestic film. The so-called Czech New Wave was appreciated with the highest international honors, with two films winning Academy Awards: The Shop on Main Street (1965) by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos and Closely Watched Trains (1966) directed by Jiří Menzel. The work of that Czech director, along with films by Miloš Forman, Ivan Passer and Jan Němec, continues to inspire filmmakers today.

Not even the so-called normalization period that followed the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops in 1968 could interrupt film production and joint projects with foreign producers. Another American film, Slaughterhouse Five (1972), marked a stream of Prague-bound productions to come in the 70s and 80s, often based on war and historical themes: Operation: Daybreak (1975), All Quiet on the Western Front (1979), Yentl (1983). But the greatest heights were reached by Forman’s Oscar-winner Amadeus (1984).

At that time, Barrandov Studio employed some 2,200 people and turned out more than 40 domestic films annually. Among them were a large number of big-budget, high-concept films such as fairytales and period films. Creatives embraced the opportunity to test innovative methods and to experiment, developing impressive special effects for the time, with art departments given enormous freedom and resources. Such was the positive side of the coin of a state-owned film industry – in this respect, it gave filmmakers the chance to explore their imagination while also enjoying financial security. Thus, the skills and the know-how of local filmmakers have not developed just over the last few decades but have been built via uninterrupted filmmaking from its beginnings to the present.

After 1989, the country’s borders opened and the state monopoly on film production ended three years later, in 1992. Among the first foreign filmmakers seduced by the bittersweet atmosphere of Prague was Steven Soderbergh, who filmed Kafka (1991) here. But things changed quickly and Czech producers realized the primary international appeal could not be simply the country’s unique locations; it had to incorporate above all the professionalism and skills of filmmakers, the existing film infrastructure, and the reliability of production services. Great work soon rolled in: Mission: Impossible (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Hellboy (2004), Casino Royale (2006), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), Wanted (2008) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), to name just a few. There were also big-budget European productions such as Jeanne d’Arc (1999), Les Misérables (2000), and Napoleon (2002). Aside from commercial titles, independent projects such as Everything Is Illuminated (2005), The Illusionist (2006),  built their successes on Prague.

In 2010, the Czech Republic introduced production incentives in the form of cash rebates on qualifying local and international spends and the country is now one of the busiest European film and television production centers. Czech skills are up-to-date and the capabilities of the local film industry are increasingly in evidence on screens around the world. More than 50 domestic features a year now shoot in the country and the story is no longer mainly about bringing in producers from abroad. With Czech films and regional co-productions winning more awards and reaching broader audiences than ever, the future looks bright. The Czech Film Fund, a key institution in fostering the growth of new talent, holds a strategic position in government these days, administering the production rebates and promoting the country’s remarkable strengths abroad via the Czech Film Commission.

Meanwhile, the fund is committed to the development of Czech film by supporting all stages of production, distribution and promotion, and more, embracing diverse areas of film culture.