Country Focus: France
Theatres sound alarm with blackout call
by Fabien Lemercier
03/11/2009 - The National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) has called on France’s 2,100 movie theatres to switch off their neon signs on Wednesday from 6pm-7pm.
This symbolic act aims to draw the authorities’ attention to the sector’s economic difficulties (small and medium-sized exhibitors have suffered a steep drop in admissions this year) at a time when new distribution windows are about to come into force (see news), bringing forward film releases on DVD, VoD (Video on Demand) and television.
The FNCF commented: "If the authorities don’t heed this cry for help and act quickly, movie theatres won’t be able to survive".
Feeling disadvantaged by the new system, exhibitors also point to the rise in equipment costs over the last ten years (+87%) and the large contribution to the film sector made by theatres through the TSA tax (twice as high as the taxes imposed on TV networks, for example).
The FNCF would also like to see a decrease in the current level by which 50% of their takings are paid back to rights-holders (3.2% for free-access TV, 9% for Canal+ and 20% for video editors) and a reduction of the film rental rate to 45%.
The dispute, which broke out in September at the FNCF Congress (with the dramatic walk-out of all small and medium exhibitors during the speech given by the director general of the National Film and Moving Image Centre - CNC), has agitated all French film professionals.
DIRE (United European Independent Distributors) thus leapt into the debate last week to remind people of distributors’ fundamental role in the film industry (financing through MG - Minimum Guarantees, boosting a film’s whole career with the quality of its release, discovering new talents and protecting cultural diversity, etc) and to emphasise that "the first to gain from film takings in theatres are not the distributors: it is, quite logically, the exhibitors (…), the first to reward themselves financially."