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INDUSTRY France

300 feature-length films produced by France in 2018

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- Investments down to 1.12 billion euros for an abundance of French film productions, including 118 international co-productions with 42 countries

300 feature-length films produced by France in 2018
The Wolf's Call by Antonin Baudry

Although French films maintain their strong lead over the European market (with national films accounting for 39.3% of the market share in France, translating into 78.8 million admissions in 2018; with production flourishing and diversified, and largely open to international co-productions; and with French films turning healthy profits abroad, etc.), the sharp contraction of TV investments in the 7th art (in particular that of Canal+, a mainstay of financial support) is a cause for concern which is having a noticeable impact on budget levels (as there has been no decrease in the number of films produced, a trend which has been noted all over the world).

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The diversification of production funding sources is, therefore, a priority for the CNC and its president, Frédérique Bredin, who presented the 2018 report on French film production. In this light, the adoption last autumn of the new European Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) is very good news, as SVOD platforms (Netflix and others) will not only have to ensure that 30% of their content comprises European works (and therefore have to buy these works in one way or another, whether new titles or films from the archives); they might also be obliged to invest in national film production, which could make the competition fairer for local, long-standing actors in the sector. Unfortunately, this directive is yet to be transposed into French law and it is unlikely that Parliament will examine it before the end of 2019 or even the beginning of 2020. As such, times are tense for the 7th art, with less funds available for such a high number of films.

Indeed, with 300 feature-length films approved in 2018, including 237 French initiative films (FIF - 15 more than in 2017)and 63 minority productions (15 less than the previous year), French cinematic production is equalling the highest level reached back in 2017 and 2015. It should be noted that 23.4 % of these films were directed by women; that the success of new talent is always renewed (first and second full-length films account for 47.7% of production); that a record number of documentaries have been approved (56), and that only seven FIF projects have been filmed in English.

In terms of financing for French cinematic production in 2018, circumstances are far less favourable as investment levels only hit 1.12 billion euros (of which €926.65m in French investments and €198.9m from international sources), down 15.2 % on the previous year.

For French majority productions (FIFs) whose financing has contracted by 12.1 %, the average budget has risen from €4.9m in 2017 to €4.04m in 2018. The number of films boasting budgets over €7m has clearly diminished (33 against last year’s 49), those occupying the middle ground - between €4m and €7m - have grown (56 films compared to 49), while films with budgets of under €1m have exploded (69 films last year against 49 in the previous year).

An analysis of finance sources reveals the origin of these tensions, with a 22.5% decline in investments from TV companies (in terms of co-productions and presales) leaving a total of €281.7m to share between 175 films (including 159 FIFs and 16 minority productions). Indeed, the number of FIFs not receiving televisual finance reached a peak of 78.

A long-standing pillar of finance, Canal+ is the main cause for concern since its investments nosedived in 2018 by 25.8%, reaching only €114.06m (for 120 pre-purchased films, of which 113 FIFs; for the record, its pre-purchases had previously amounted to €178.73m in 2015 and €194.57m in 2010). But the situation is no brighter for other pay-TV channels (€27.27m of investments from OCS, down by 27.4%, for 45 feature-length films, and to a lesser degree Ciné+ with €18m, down by 9.2%, for 118 films) or for free-to-view TV channels, whose involvement in 2018 cinematic production decreased by 20.1% compared with the previous year, totalling €121.24m across 116 films: TF1 (€22.45m for 9 films), France 2 (€32.7m for 36 titles), France 3 (€21.51m for 29 films), M6 (€26.41m for 14 films), Arte France (€8.33m for 23 feature films) and recent free-to-view channels belonging to TNT (€9.84m for 38 pre-purchased films, including 13 films for C8, 11 for W9, 10 for TMC).

Aside for TV channels, which account for 28.6% of FIF funding, the French film budget was further shored up by contributions from national producers (covering 38.1% of estimated budgets), theatrical distribution rights, video releases and international sales (13.7% of budgets), foreign investments (6.9 % of financing), companies which invest in film and audiovisual production (“SOFICA” companies – 3.6%) and state aid (9.3%) in the form of automatic support (€37.11m) and selective aid (€27.32m) from the CNC, as well as regional aid (€24.34m). 170 FIFs also benefited from tax relief.

And finally, the French film industry’s openness to working with the wider world has remained at a very healthy level, overseeing 118 international co-productions in 2018 with 42 foreign countries:55 French majority productions (10 more than the previous year) and 63 minority productions (15 less than in 2017). Last year, the principal foreign partners of French cinema were Belgium (40 films including 27 French majority projects), Germany (18 with 13 minority films), Italy (13 including 11 minority productions, of which five “financial” co-productions), Switzerland (10), Luxembourg (10), Spain (8), Portugal (5), Greece (4), Brazil (4), Romania (4), Canada (4), Bulgaria (3) and Tunisia (3).

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(Translated from French)

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