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"A threat to the French film industry"

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Xavier Rigault • Producer

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- Xavier Rigault, co-president of the UPC (Union des Producteurs de Cinéma), gives his opinion on the debate on media timelines

Xavier Rigault  • Producer

Media timeline reform (the timing of the release of films on various media platforms following theatrical release) is set to be debated tomorrow by French professionals at the 12th Rencontres Cinématographiques (Film Meetings) in Dijon (read the news and the interview with Mathieu Debusschère). Xavier Rigault (2.4.7. Movies), co-president of the UPC, reveals his point of view and makes some suggestions.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: What's your view on the subject of media timelines?
Xavier Rigault:
It’s become an acute problem because the timeline is the backbone to the pre-financing of content, which has maintained the industry and which also contributes to the great ideas of French cultural exception. It was very efficient for a linear release system, but with technological developments and changes in usage, this type of timeline will no longer suffice. There are loopholes that may potentially allow new global operators to enter into the market without having to commit to the pre-financing of French cinema, which could destabilise traditional broadcasters. This type of timeline isn't particularly satisfactory for the viewer either who won't have sufficient access to content and doesn't particularly want to wait 107 years to watch a film. So, it'll either be pirated or forgotten about! The subject of piracy is intrinsically linked to the question of chronology and they should be addressed together. It was calculated that piracy has amounted to €1.3bn in lost turnover in France, which roughly amounts to the annual turnover of cinema. So we lost half of our potential market! We're consuming more content than ever before but revenue is stagnating! The added pressure on content means that more work is produced, but with the same amount of money. The average cost estimate for French films went from €3.9 million in 2004 to €2.8 million in 2016, so a 30% decrease, which is very alarming considering the fact that said decrease is also hiding the phenomena of concentration. Independent production is really suffering, despite the fact that it is this type of production which develops, innovates, and its fragility is a threat to the French film industry in the long term. That's why we need to modernise timelines.

What are your suggestions in terms of reform?
Cinemas also come into the picture as they remain one of the biggest generators of film revenue, but that's in terms of the overall picture! While attendance at French cinemas has increased by 7% since 2004, average admissions per French film fell by 37%. There are differences between the operational economy, which is fairly good and whose work must be recognised, and the reality of production, which is not at all the same. There is a bottleneck at the cinema level. Operators tell us that they can't manage films properly because there are too many of them, so we end up with cinema programmers who make fewer and fewer choices, wanting to show everything, but then the pace speeds up. Maybe this bottleneck needs to be addressed and a quicker and alternative means of operation needs to be sought.

What about the window of time for VoD which is closing up at the moment following the development of paid and free TV?
We need to completely thaw out the VoD window. These days, VoD isn't getting off the ground because viewers don’t understand it. You have to put yourself in their shoes: they want to see a film because it's been promoted, but have about two weeks to go to the cinema to see it if the film is on in their local area, after which the film isn't available for three and a half months, it's then made available again on VoD for six months before disappearing again for 26 months.

What would happen to paid TV if we were to unfreeze the VoD window?
We're in favour of refreshing its timeline after six months. Obviously criteria need to be set that benefit the sector, with financial commitments including criteria for percentage of turnover, a minimum amount per subscriber and possibly a total amount, as well as diversity agreements, an extension of what Canal+ had before, but it could also be a different operator.

At what point in the timeline would you position VoD subscription platforms (SVoD) that are currently positioned at 36 months after theatrical release?
We personally believe that there won't be a significant difference between paid TV and SVoD in the long term. A SVoD operator who is honourable, who makes commitments vis-à-vis the sector, can be treated in the same way as a paid TV operator, provided that their commitments are the same.

(Translated from French)

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