Elizabeth Conter • Unifrance
Focus on French cinema in Germany
by Fabien Lemercier
Expert on Germany at the Studies & Markets service at Unifrance, Elizabeth Conter analyses for Cineuropa the penetration of French cinema in Germany, the distributor network and the state of co-productions. A revealing report made during the 4h Franco-German Film Meetings, taking place in Munich from November 9-11.
How is French cinema doing in Germany?
After a good 2004 and a bad 2003, 2005 was an exceptional year because of the success of The March of the Penguins [+see also:
film profile]. But it’s always cyclical in nature, it really depends on the films, and the 2006 forecasts are mixed with an estimated 2.2m German filmgoers for French majority productions (including more than 300,000 from films in 2005). So as not to make the results misleading, it’s very likely that we won’t include Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [+see also:
film profile], an English-language film co-produced by France and a huge success in Germany. The most important thing is that the number of French films distributed remains very high, with a diverse range of films, from big blockbusters, such as Asterix and the Vikings [+see also:
film profile], Silent Hill [+see also:
film profile] and Bandidas [+see also:
film profile] to auteur films which make up our regular business: The Comedy of Power [+see also:
film profile] (100,000 admissions), Hidden [+see also:
interview: Margaret Menegoz
interview: Michael Haneke
film profile] (170,000), To Paint or Make Love [+see also:
interview: Arnaud & Jean-Marie Larrieu
interview: Philippe Martin
film profile], Not Here To Be Loved (70,000). The most specialised films may be recording modest results but at least they are now being bought, which wasn’t the case before.
What trends are forecast in terms of distribution ?
French cinema can count on a network of faithful distributors who do great work on films with Concorde, Tobis, Alamode, Prokino, Arsenal. These mid-sized structures buy French films at good prices and invest appropriately sized release budgets. Overall, the situation has calmed down since the frenzy that followed distributors’ quoting on the stock market in 2000, which had exorbitant costs of acquisition and bankruptcies to boot. An average release for an auteur film in Germany today is between 30 and 50 prints, Hidden for example had 63 compared to 520 for Asterix and the Vikings. The German situation is also very different from the French because it is a federal country. A national release therefore represents a minimum of 30 to 40 prints for the large cities, and there is no centre like Paris where when a film does well, it opens elsewhere in the country. A release requires about 20 press screenings, a real painstaking task. And in general, Germany is very oriented towards Hollywood, with directors not coming back home after trying their luck in the US, contrary to French filmmakers.
How is it possible to further improve the distribution of French films in Germany?
By moving talents. Stars like Depardieu or Deneuve, as well as less well-known actors and directors, are in great demand by the German media. As the attention given to cinema is decreasing in the German press – who place much less emphasis on it than in France – the only way is to guarantee minimum coverage is to have French artists. And this isn’t always easy because it’s easy for them to go to London for example.
What is the situation with regard to French/German co-productions?
There has been a very clear development since the creation of the French/German mini-agreement. Since 2002, we have had about ten co-productions per year (French or German majority), whereas before that there were only three or four. But most of them are French majority productions (six in 2005). And the new support system that Germany is setting up will certainly attract French producers, but at the same may widen the gap. French majority productions look for financing in Germany and most of the time, get it, while French outfits find it extremely difficult to get financing for a minority co-production for German films. Concerning the phenomenon that affects co-productions with Italy, the language especially is an obstacle because these productions don’t fit into the French-language speaking quotas of broadcasters. Lastly, broadly speaking, French producers are not that familiar with German cinema, aside from a handful of directors that regularly do co-productions, such as Yves Marmion of UGC-YM, Marie Masmonteil at Elzévir, Patrice Godeau at Aliceleo and Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre at Mact.
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