Brussels turns to films for more revenue

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Brussels turns to films for more revenue

BRUSSELS - The Brussels Philharmonic used to wait by the phone and occasionally a filmmaker would call. The symphony orchestra did, after all, perform the music on Martin Scorsese’s 2004 movie “The Aviator,” winning the Golden Globe that year for best original score.

But after 1 million euros ($1.3 million) in public funding cuts over the past two years, patience has become a luxury. General manager Gunther Broucke solicited movie producers at a film festival in Ghent last year: The orchestra wanted work.

Among the first to call were producers for “The Artist,” the silent French film which won the Oscar for best picture and best original score at the Academy Awards in February.

A mix of film music, a new record label and an expansive tour schedule have since solidified the philharmonic’s finances with 800,000 euros in additional income, nearly offsetting the public funding cuts.

Broucke took over the orchestra in September 2003 during what he describes as the “dark days,” when its relationships with politicians and promoters were “in tatters.”

The orchestra, founded in 1935, was on the brink of folding. But on Saturday, the orchestra played to a sold-out crowd of about 950 people at Brussels’ Flagey arts center, performing Mozart’s 20th piano concerto and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

For Broucke, it wasn’t just the privilege of an engaged audience, but of the orchestra continuing to exist at all.

“One has to be lucky in life sometimes,” he said. Broucke recently signed a five-year deal to guarantee a minimum yearly subsidy of 8.1 million euros from the Flanders regional government.

The public money accounts for 80 to 85 percent of the orchestra’s budget. The Brussels Philharmonic fits in the public funding tradition of European orchestras as opposed to the U.S. model of private funding from foundations and individuals. Reuters
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