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INDUSTRY / MARKET France

French film faces challenges on the international market

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- Boasting 40.5 million admissions and earning €244.4m in foreign cinemas last year, French film is holding up, but it must adapt to a competitive landscape undergoing great change

French film faces challenges on the international market
Anna by Luc Besson

Guaranteeing diversity in the face of standardisation and maintaining both the quality and quantity of French films (France is the second highest exporter of films after the US) … During the presentation of the (provisional) results relating to the overseas performance of French works in 2019 - which took place on the occasion of the French Film Meetings in Paris organised by UniFrance (read our news) - the Minister for Culture Franck Riester insisted upon the vital importance of redoubling efforts in terms of film promotion and exportation, whilst also expanding the French presence across all broadcasting media, so as to adapt to a new generation of filmmakers (such as France’s Oscar nominees for 2020, Ladj Ly with Les Misérables [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Ladj Ly
film profile
]
and Jérémy Clapin with I Lost My Body [+see also:
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interview: Jérémy Clapin
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]
, as well as short film flag bearers Yves Piat and Bruno Collet). "In an increasingly competitive global market, with the emergence of new producer countries and ever-more impressive American productions, endowed with considerable resources and relayed all around the world, a content battle is underway, and this competition is amplified by that posed by series", the Minister underlined, also insisting upon the need to stabilise funding schemes for French film by ensuring SVoD platforms contribute to these (namely, 25% of their turnover in France, along with safeguards protecting independent production and copywrite); an obligation which will come into force after the review of the new audiovisual law, with this review set to commence in Parliament this April.

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"There’s been no miracle as such, but we’re holding up well", UniFrance’s president Serge Toubiana remarked, in reference to the 40.5 million admissions (up 1.2% as compared to the provisional figure for 2018 announced back in January 2018) and the €244.4m of revenue earned by French films in foreign cinemas last year. "Despite the lack of any high-performing English-language films or animated titles, and despite competition from platforms, we have gained a solid foothold in the current market, and at a time when independent film is suffering worldwide. If France is managing to hold its own, it’s thanks to the diversity of French production: 721 French films were screened around the world last year", managing director Daniela Elstner explained (read our interview).

Last year, 64 French titles drew in upwards of 100,000 viewers worldwide and seven feature films surpassed the 1-million-admissions mark, with Anna [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Luc Besson (4.35 million viewers), Mia and the White Lion [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Gilles de Maistre (4.25 million) and Serial Bad Weddings 2 [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
by Philippe de Chauveron (3.3 million) mounting the winners’ podium. Also earning themselves a place in the top ten are three animated titles (Asterix – The Secret of the Magic Potion [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Minuscule – Mandibles from Far Away [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
and Terra Willy [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
), Sink or Swim [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Gilles Lellouche, An Officer and a Spy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Roman Polanski, The Mustang [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
film profile
]
by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Non Fiction [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Olivier Assayas
film profile
]
by Olivier Assayas. Interestingly, 59.2% of the results for 2019 were recorded by French-language works and majority French productions contributed to 85% of the total.

As for the geographical breakdown of France’s overseas performance, Western Europe strengthened its position as top market for French films abroad, with 19.1 million viewers; that is, 47.1% of the 2019 total. Italy remains the most receptive country with 4.34 million admissions (up 10%), ahead of Germany (3.91 million, up 31%) and Spain (3.34 million, up 11%). Belgium, Scandinavia and the UK, meanwhile, have all registered a drop in numbers.

Viewer numbers in Central and Eastern Europe have climbed, hitting the 7.35-million-admissions mark - that is, 18.2% of the total figure - with especially positive results recorded in Poland and Russia.

Latin America accounts for 11.8% of French film admissions, but overall, with regard to global markets, there has been a sharp drop in tickets sold, in Brazil, Argentina and Chile, in particular. Figures for Colombia and Peru, however, are on the up.

Bringing up the rear, meanwhile, are North America (9.64% - a market share in continual decline over the past ten years), Asia (9.24%), Oceania (1.93%) and the Africa-Middle East region (2.17%).

For the first time, UniFrance has published an SVoD market indicator (pertaining to 56 broadcasters from 39 foreign countries), revealing that French film accounts for 2.4% of the total number of films accessible on platforms, making it the fourth best represented form of film worldwide, trailing behind American, Indian and British productions. By way of comparison, French films account for 10.6% of the total volume of films released in cinemas around the world. It’s a discrepancy which drives home the critical importance of digital markets, but also the need for French film to hold its ground in cinemas, as these serve to showcase French production, as do the big international festivals where French film shines bright (accounting for 19% of the total titles selected by the ten biggest events in 2019).

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(Translated from French)

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