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INDUSTRY France

UGC courts controversy at Exhibitors Congress

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The 62nd Congress of the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) begins in Deauville today, where 2,133 French establishments (including 1,065 arthouse theatres) are representing 5,362 screens.

The event – which will pay homage to Luc Besson (ten of whose films made since 1983 have garnered 40m admissions), as well as celebrate the Ticket d’Or for Best Distributor of the 2006 season (won by Warner) – is expected to be stormy due to several controversies surrounding the UGC group.

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In the first of these – since its alliance with MK2 in the area of unlimited passes (see article), which opened the Pandora’s box of ticket price issues – the UGC group (France’s second leading distributor after Europalaces) has brought to court a number of local cinemas. These conflicts concerned arthouse and experimental cinemas in Lyon, Epinal, Rosny-sous-Bois and, in particular, the Méliès of Montreuil in the Paris suburbs, who were accused of distorting free competition and forcing prices downwards through the use of state subventions (from regional bodies and/or the Centre National de la Cinématographie (CNC)).

The Méliès (200,000 annual admissions), which is located near Rosny’s UGC Cité-Ciné (2.3m annual admissions) and is planning to add three more theatres to its existing three by 2010, launched a counterattack in the form of a letter of support.

Signatories included the vast majority of arthouse and experimental film distributors, as well as over 60 international directors, including Theo Angelopoulos, Olivier Assayas, Jacques Audiard, Laurent Cantet, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Pascale Ferran, Abel Ferrara, Robert Guédiguian, Hou-Hsiao-hsien, Alejandro Gonzales Iñarritu, Benoît Jacquot, Jia Zhang-ke, Abbas Kiarostami, Cédric Klapisch, David Lynch, François Ozon, Carlos Reygadas, Francesco Rosi, Abderrahmane Sissako, Bertrand Tavernier, Wim Wenders and Wong Kar-wai.

The letter, addressed to the CNC and the administrative court, highlights: "We independent directors and distributors today need exceptional places that support our works, not programmers who are focused solely on box office figures, but who support us subjectively, passionately (…) [The Méliès’] status as a public cinema guarantees reasonable ticket prices to make it accessible to as large a public as possible, in particular class groups and schools, which are systematically provided with a film education."

The Exhibitors Congress also features a debate entitled Digital Cinema: From Technical Practice to Strategic Issues, a traditional meeting with public bodies (the Ministry of Culture and the Director General of the CNC) and sneak previews of Emmanuel Mouret’s Shall We Kiss? [+see also:
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(see news), Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age [+see also:
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, Gilles de Maistre’s Le premier Cri, Anne-Marie Etienne’s Si c'était lui [+see also:
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and Eran Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit [+see also:
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On Thursday, 26 distributors will present their packed eight-and-a-half-hour programme of 30 trailers and teasers.

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(Translated from French)

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