In terms of film production, Turkey shared the same fate with many of the national cinemas of the 20th century: lack of funding and proper conditions. Film production wasn’t continuous until around the 1950s and the film market in general was run by a few major import companies that struggled for domination in the most population-dense and profitable cities such as Istanbul and Izmir.
Overview of Turkish Cinema
Film theatres rarely ever screened any locally produced films and the majority of the programs consisted of films of the stronger western film industries, especially those of the USA, France, Italy and Germany. Attempts in film production came only from these big importers, which could rely on their strong distribution-system and their theatre-chains that would guarantee them a return-of-investment. Between the years 1896–1945, the number of locally produced films did not even reach 50 films in total, equalling to an average annual film production under one film per year. Compared to the thousands of films that have been imported and screened during the same period, it is hard to speak about a presence of film production in Turkey before the 1950s.
This would rapidly change after World War II. A total of 49 films produced in 1952 meant that within a year, more films had been produced than the Turkish industry could produce during all the previous years. During the 60s, Turkey became the fifth biggest film producer world wide and annual film production reached the 300 film benchmark just at the beginning of the 70s. Compared with the histories of other national cinemas, the achievements of the Turkish film industry after 1950 are still remarkable.
However, the impact of TV and Video as the new popular media and political turmoil in the 70s (often hand in hand with deep economic crises) caused a sharp drop in ticket sales, resulting into a long-lasting crisis igniting in early 80s and continuing until the mid-90s. The number of annual ticket sales decreased from a 90 million ticket sales in 1966 to 56 million tickets in 1984 and only 11 million in 1990. Accordingly the number of film theatres fell from an approximately 2000 theatres in 1966 to 854 in 1984 and 290 in 1990. During the 1990s the average number of films produced per year remained between 10-15 films, usually half of them not even making it into the theatres.
Since 1995 the situation has improved. After the year 2000, annual ticket sales reached the 20 millions and since 1995, the number of theatres continuously increased to an approximately 500 theatres country-wide. Now, Turkish films attract millions of spectators and top the blockbuster-lists, often surpassing foreign films in terms of ticket sales. However, it is difficult to speak about the existence of an industry, since most films are rather individual projects of directors who otherwise earn their living in Television, Advertising or Theatre. The distribution of these films are mainly handled by foreign companies such as Warner Bros and United International Pictures.