The French independent film sector turns up the heat
by Fabien Lemercier
- Followed by arthouse cinemas, independent film organisations very publicly walked out of negotiations over the screening of films
Tensions stepped up a notch in the French film industry after the last-minute withdrawal of measures for regulating the screening of films in cinemas, which were going to be introduced by the government within the framework of the ‘Freedom of creation’ bill (see news article). Followed by the AFCAE (French Association of Arthouse Cinemas), a united independent film sector (BLOC, ARP, UPF) walked out of the meeting organised on Monday by the CNC on the issue. Observing in a press release that "the absence of regulation today plays to the advantage of stakeholders in dominant positions, to the detriment of diversity", independent producers and distributors highlighted that "it’s not about partisan wars, but putting an end to a situation that is deteriorating year after year, making it necessary for real commitments to be taken by the various market stakeholders. Commitments that are negotiated collectively, monitored, and sanctioned if they are not respected." Cineuropa asked two professionals to shed some light on this debate, which is highly technical but will have very real consequences on the life of films.
For Jean Labadie (a distributor through Le Pacte – which is today releasing Irreplaceable [+see also:
film profile] by Thomas Lilti), "our interests and those of filmmakers are not automatically the same as those of cinema circuits, which are the most powerful lobbyists in the world of film. But do the most direct traders of film have the right to dictate the laws of the French Republic? I’m not sure… France is an incredible example of a country that defends its culture and the whole world is envious of the diversity we offer in our cinemas. When a left-wing minister of culture brushes what they negotiated to one side and ends up deciding to allow exhibitors to call the shots, it makes you wonder. As we musn’t forget that it is not exhibitors that discover films, but it’s a big issue and we musn’t make sweeping statements like some media sources do. When we talk about the screening of films in cinemas, it’s also important to know if they’re being released at the right time, how they’re released and who is distributing them."
According to Florence Gastaud (the managing director of the ARP – the Civil Society of Authors-Directors-Producers), "the proposals for regulation are something we all worked on. What’s been taken out of the bill is the possibility to invoke the law in the event that professional dialogue breaks down. But not everything has been removed from the bill, simply what the CNC tried to add coming into the last stage in the process of the bill being approved by both houses. It’s been a failure and there’s above all been a lot of irritation over the fact that the minister cannot guarantee us strength of will, although that doesn’t mean we won’t get there. The positive thing is that a true movement for independent film has been set up, as arthouse cinemas have joined us, whereas they usually stick up for the exhibition sector in its entirety."
"The CNC has absolutely not given up on its drive to regulate the screening of works via programming commitments that are currently being negotiated, but it does want to work on the idea of distribution commitments, and that’s what jars with the Fédération Nationale des Distributeurs (National Federation of Distributors), which includes the 'big' distributers (Editor’s note: Gaumont, Pathé, UGC, MK2, StudioCanal, SND, etc.) and not those of DIRE (United European Independent Distributors) or the SDI (Union of Independent Distributors). It’s often said that too many films are released, but when you do the maths, there are enough screens for all. On the other hand, there is a problem with the fact that the distribution and screening of films is overly concentrated. It would be better to spread copies of films more evenly around local areas. For years now, cinema circuits have set the pace for distributors: films are released en masse over a period of 15 days, then they disappear. This leads to an explosion in the number of copies produced and a rise in distribution costs that harms cinemas and films, as no in-depth work is carried out anymore. The idea is to try to re-establish a better balance through commitments, especially by creating greater clarity around plans for releases upstream to allow a better distribution between cinemas and more in-depth work."
(Translated from French)