Country Focus: France
Digital causes a stir
by Fabien Lemercier
18/02/2010 - The negative opinion delivered at the start of February by the Competition Authority on the mutualisation fund that the National Film and Moving Image Centre (CNC) planned as a way of financing movie theatres’ transition to digital projection continues to cause a stir in France.
In a letter to the Prime Minister and Culture Minister, numerous professional organisations yesterday called for urgent alternative measures, underlining the "serious consequences it would have for films’ access to movie theatres, movie theatres’ access to films and the widespread circulation of films if digital growth was left at the mercy of market laws alone."
Signatories of the letter include the AFCAE (French Association of Arthouse and Experimental Cinemas), APC (Film Producers Association), ARP (Civil Society of Writers-Directors-Producers), CIN (Independents for Digital Collective), DIRE (United European Independent Distributors), Europa Cinemas, SDI (Independent Distributors Union), SPI (Independent Producers Union) and SRF (Society of Film Directors).
The CNC responded in the evening by announcing a system that would guarantee the rapid digitisation of all theatres and respect for diversity. Remarking that the ongoing digital equipment process for networks with over 50 theatres does not seem to require subsidies for it is financed by distributors, the CNC believes that additional public funding will be necessary for the other theatres. It suggests that certain cinemas set up a mutualisation fund for negotiating with distributors and third-party investors.
Above all, the CNC is planning a system of direct subsidies for exhibitors from the support fund (in coordination with regional authorities); the use of financing offered by the big national loan (which is already expected to contribute to the digitisation of works) for rural-based theatres; and a possible tax on digital prints. Finally, in order to guarantee exhibitors’ and distributors’ freedom of programming, the CNC said that a government bill will soon be drawn up.