The global influence of French animation
by Fabien Lemercier
- The assessment of how the animation market fared in 2015, just published by the CNC, confirms France’s excellence, its international potential and the impact of its tax credits
The French animation industry is performing exceptionally well, as demonstrated by the annual report unveiled to the press by the president of the CNC, Frédérique Bredin, while today sees the start of the 40th Annecy International Animation Film Festival (13-18 June 2016 – read the article and the interview with artistic director Marcel Jean). The assessment underlined the sheer variety of programmes, identifying animation as the audiovisual genre that has proven to export the most successfully, with a concept geared towards the international sphere right from the outset. There were also record foreign attendance levels last year, with 21.2 million admissions for feature films (including 15.1 million viewers for The Little Prince [+see also:
film profile]) and a solid performance at the French box office (5.6 million admissions), and it is a particularly dynamic sector in terms of employment (boasting 5,299 employees, including a huge number of young graduates from film schools such as Les Gobelins and La Poudrière), whose excellent reputation manages to charm all of the major studios the world over.
One of the positive points highlighted by Bredin was the CNC’s desire to "value the work of the auteurs and the risk-taking of the producers by broadening support for ambitious projects", especially by utilising a bonus system to foster the exporting of French film production, which is already very much open to foreign funding (representing 24.1% of the €180.8 million invested in the 285 hours of French animated television programmes produced in 2015, and 29.7% of the budgets for feature films). This international strategy is also boosted by a clear strengthening of the tax credits (read the news), which, since January, have provided France with a very noticeable surge in competitiveness in its quest to attract international shoots to the country, where there is a plentiful, qualified workforce specialising in animation. The impact of this overhaul has been immediate, seeing as since the start of 2016, six studios have announced that they are opening establishments in France (in Paris, Lyon, Angoulême and Valence), and those animated projects that were authorised for production in France with the advantage of having the international tax credit behind them represented a total expenditure of €28 million in France for only the first quarter of 2016 (as against €18 million for the entirety of 2015). As Pierre-Emmanuel Lecerf, the director of European and international affairs at the CNC, explained, "The new €30 million cap for the film tax credit allows us to attract productions with a budget of almost €100 million."
This restructuring of the tax credits has nevertheless led to a short-term drop in the number of French animated feature-film productions: there were nine in 2014, as against three in 2015. Indeed, French producers have preferred to stall their activities somewhat and postpone their production launches until 2016 in order to benefit from the new, advantageous measures. It is also worth noting that the average cost of these French animated features reached as high as €7.3 million last year.
Nonetheless, the truly great shape that French animation is in, coupled with its bright prospects (with international online platforms proving to be particularly fond of French animated TV programmes), must not mask the certain degree of strain that the theatres are under, with an ever-growing level of competition (+83.3% in releases of new French animated features last year and +10.9% in their admissions) because the majority of productions set their sights on the same distribution periods (around the school holidays in order to draw in as high a proportion as possible of the target market of young audiences), which in 2015 led to several below-par performances at the box office for high-quality French animated movies. When asked about this point, the president of the CNC, Bredin, insisted on the fact that support for distribution, in particular that for independent distribution, will be the main area that the public authorities will focus on during the second half of the year, as this link in the chain clearly needs to be strengthened.
(Translated from French)