Country Focus: France
A clear fall in production investment
by Fabien Lemercier
- After being analysed by the CNC, the state of health of feature-film production in France during the first three quarters of 2014 leaves no room for doubt: there is a clear downward trend, and majority French productions (FIFs) are the first to be affected, which was not the case in 2013, a year that saw a slow-down that had an even bigger impact on minority French co-productions with other countries.
Compared to the first nine months of 2013, the number of approved films has decreased by 8.3% to 177 features, including 131 FIFs (-12.6%) and 46 minority co-productions (four more than during the same period in 2013).
While the overall level of French production is still very high, alarm bells are ringing on the investment front, with funding having seen a slide of 22.7% to €678.48 million during the first three quarters of 2014. This is an irrevocable decrease that leads us to two fundamental conclusions: on one hand, funding has been scaled back to a tremendous degree, as it had only been tightened by 7.2% and 3.4% in the full years 2013 and 2012. On the other hand, this time the fall above all affects majority French productions (a 23.6% decrease in investment from January to September 2014, to €536.11 million), whereas for the full year 2013, the drop in funding levels was mainly felt by minority co-productions with foreign countries (-4.3% for FIFs, as against -15.2% for minority productions).
The average budget of FIFs is down 12.6% compared to the same period in 2013 and stands at €4.09 million – in other words, its lowest level for 15 years if we take the annual data into consideration.
The FIFs that have been most affected by this tightening of the purse strings are the very high-budget productions (those over €15 million): ten of these were approved during the first three quarters of 2012, seven during the same period in 2013, and two between January and September 2014. Also of note is the near total lack of productions in the €4 million–€5 million budget range (just one film approved, as against ten in 2014), while the higher (€5 million-€7 million) and lower (€2 million-€4 million) brackets have seen a slight increase.
Even though we must wait for a comprehensive assessment of the full year 2014 in order to draw any firm conclusions, we could already argue that the heated debate on the profitability of films that kicked off in late 2012 and the start of 2013 has led to the curbing of the excesses of certain big-budget movies, a movement undoubtedly reinforced by a higher level of caution on the part of investors following the flops of several of last year’s big, over-embellished commercial productions. The relatively stagnant overall economic situation in France has certainly also played a part, as has the implementation of the new collective cinema agreement that has pushed up potential production costs and places a particularly heavy burden on the most ambitious film projects.