French movie theatres through the X-ray
by Fabien Lemercier
- Exhibition is in rude health, with 2,020 establishments for 5,647 screens, but there is some strain among small exhibitors and tension regarding the post-VPF situation
As they assembled last week in Deauville for the 70th National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) Conference, French exhibitors gave a rather favourable overview of the current situation in their business sector, which last year drew in 208,97 million viewers (or 3.35 admissions per inhabitant in 2014). It is true that France possesses a significant number of theatres (2,020 establishments for 5,647 screens, 149 of which are multiplexes, containing 2,074 screens) and boasts excellent coverage of the territory, as demonstrated by "The Geography of the Cinema" report published by the CNC (click here to download the document): 1,644 French communes were equipped with at least one operational movie theatre last year, and Paris stands out on a global scale, with 404 screens spread among 87 establishments.
Also of note among the array of statistical data made public is that 1,116 cinemas were classified as “Arthouse” in 2014, and the average revenue of French theatres (including all taxes and excluding free tickets) stood at €6.24. Lastly, one of the conclusions of the Publixciné survey can only serve to heighten exhibitors’ optimism, as 81.0% of people surveyed believe that the movie theatre is still the best way to discover a film (as against 7.6% for television, 4.9% for the internet, 3.9% for DVD or Blu-ray, and a mere 2.6% for video on demand).
Nevertheless, the French exhibition sector’s overall rude bill of health still harbours a few issues that are a source of tension, particularly for small exhibitors (73% of the total number of theatres), which are experiencing problems in gaining access to films, with distributors objecting to providing them with the works during the first few weeks of release and often demanding a "full screen" that is out of all proportion for small theatres, particularly for the single-screen cinemas, which tend to work on a multiprogramming basis in order to be able to satisfy their audiences.
The matter of the imminent end to the virtual print fees (a mandatory contribution by distributors to exhibitors in order to facilitate the transition to digital in theatres, which, in the end, took place very quickly in France) is also a subject triggering heated discussions, as exhibitors have observed that their operating costs are much higher than they were during the 35 mm era.
Lastly, we can quietly note that the unanimity that had underpinned the setting up of the €4 price for viewers under 14 in 2014 (read the news) has started to crumble. The theatres belonging to the CGR group thus pushed the offer further this summer by setting a new price of €4.50 per screening and by extending it to under-16s.
(Translated from French)