A landscape in the throes of change
by Fabien Lemercier
- From new tax credits to tremors from Canal+, the French film industry is in the throes of change
Whilst 2016 will kick off with the traditional Rendez-vous with French Cinema, held in Paris by Unifrance from 14 to 18 January, a glance back at 2015 gives us an idea of the main concerns facing the French film industry, which remains a stronghold of film in Europe in all sectors (with strong French productions mixing quantity and quality, a strong cinema network, very well-organised funding for productions, active distribution of feature films from the rest of Europe, dynamic international sales, preservation of technical industries, etc.), but is faced with serious challenges nonetheless.
In today’s competitive context, in which different parts of the world all try to attract film productions to stimulate their local economies, one piece of good news is that starting from 1 January 2016, the competitiveness of French tax credits is set to improve (see news article) for French films and foreign features. A healthy decision welcomed by all French professionals who have seen the delocalisation of big budgets accelerate in recent times.
The horizon is, on the other hand, cloudier when it comes to funding for films,on account of the recent restructuring of French television groups, in particular Canal+ (see news article), the main partner in French film production which faces strong competition over the rights to sport, the other pillar of its offer along with film. As the amount of pre-funding available for French films depends on the number of subscribers to Canal+, all French film industry professionals monitor the health checks of the pay-TV channel carefully, and the slightest changes in numbers are scrutinised in detail.
The general funding context offers hardly any alternatives for now. VoD isn’t really taking off (interfered with by endemic piracy despite the best efforts of the public authorities to promote the legal offer using charters of best practices signed by major advertising stakeholders online). Independent distributors, for their part, are faced with ferocious two-speed competition that is having an impact on the box office (with major successes and bitter setbacks), and struggle to clear sufficient margin for manoeuvre to propose lots of MGs that meet the ambitions of producers.
Be that as it may, it’s not all bad news. France has a lot going for it to help it stay on course, in particular artistic talent from across the generations, lots of film lovers and diversity in cinemas, the support of the State, and a rich web of companies of all sizes working in the film sector. Some of these have a thirst for growth at global level, like Wild Bunch (news) which, after merging with German company Senator in 2014, launched a sales division for independent American films and a co-production fund with China in 2015. It’s just one of many examples of how the French film industry is on the whole very open to international developments, which is probably the best way, despite the difficulties generated by violent changes in the economy, it can keep nourishing its solid national industry without letting big players swallow up the little ones.
(Translated from French)