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Industry / Market - France

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

340 feature films produced by France in 2021

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French production bounced back admirably last year, but full recovery will only come with the return to normal cinema admission numbers and the wellbeing of independent distributors

340 feature films produced by France in 2021
Head of Film at the CNC Magali Valente (© CNC)

After a year spent resisting the first brutal impacts of the pandemic in 2020, which were cushioned by a range of measures taken by the authorities (notably the guarantee fund for film shoots in order to support sector activity, as well as various mechanisms to avoid a slowdown in future investments), the French film industry has caught up in spectacular fashion, as illustrated by the 2021 French film production report published by the CNC and presented to the press by Head of Film Magali Valente.

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With 340 feature films registered, including 265 French-initiative films (77 more FIFs than in 2020) and 75 minority productions (26 more), French film production in 2021 reached a new record high (the previous record attained in 2019 by way of 301 registered feature films). However, if we take the two-year health crisis into account, the average for 2020-2021 amounts to 289 films and actually falls below the production levels recorded between 2017 and 2019.

"As it stands, we need to make sure we come through the crisis because the emergency aid put forward by the authorities is going to drop off", stressed Magali Valente. "We’ve limited the damage, but we don’t know how long it will take for cinema admissions to return to their normal levels, whether they’re experiencing a structural decline or whether the situation will even out over time. We don’t have the distance required to work it out at this point in time, but we’ll know more in the autumn, both in terms of admissions overall and for more diverse films. Our fears over potential backlogs of releases didn’t really amount to anything; the gap has widened between different types of films, and arthouse works have suffered, resulting in the fragile state of some independent distributors. It could turn into a vicious circle, because it leads to a level of risk aversion which isn’t favourable to recovery and which might have a systemic effect on the drop in MGs (Minimum Guarantees) being offered by distributors which we’re already starting to see. As such, we need to find solutions to help support distributors now."

Despite the persistent challenges faced last year vis-à-vis film crews needing to work abroad, 143 French international co-productions were registered in 2021 (up 66.3% on the previous year and up 23.3% on 2019), made alongside 45 foreign countries: 68 majority French (+31) and 75 minority productions (+26). Investment in the sector totalled €468.1m (up 71.1% on 2020, but down 8% on 2019 and light years away from the €774.44m invested in 2003): €225.25m hailing from France and €242.85m from abroad.

French cinema’s main foreign partners last year were Belgium (25 FIFs and 17 minority productions), Italy (8 FIFs and 21 minority productions), Germany (13 FIFs and 11 minority productions), Luxembourg (6 FIFs and 6 minority productions), Spain (2 FIFs and 7 minority productions), Switzerland (6 FIFs and 3 minority productions) and Portugal (5 FIFs and 3 minority productions).

On the funding side, overall investment leaped up to €1.35b (up 73.5% on 2020 and up 21.4% on 2019), of which €1.12b went to French-initiative films. As a result, after a four-year decline, the average FIF budget has climbed back up to €4.23m. That said, if we exclude the four registered films in 2021 which enjoyed a budget upwards of €30m (Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom with €64.10m, The Three Musketeers: D'Artagnan with €36.08m, The Three Musketeers: Milady with €36.16m and Notre-Dame On Fire [+see also:
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with €31.53m), the average budget stands at €3.66m. "The fall in average budgets has been a long-standing trend which worsened during the crisis. We have to make sure it doesn’t gain too much momentum because we’d end up with market structuring issues", Magali Valente insisted. "Overall, however, even though funding is gradually being reduced, the market isn’t stalling."

Budget allocation analysis mostly reveals a very sharp rise in FIFs boasting a budget between €1m and €4m in 2021, namely 101 films, which is a new record since 1994 and a surge carried by the segment of films costing between €2m and €4m. In the same way, production of FIFs between €4m and €7m reached a high of 59 films.

The finer detail over FIF’s funding sources in 2021 reveals a relatively stable structure, if not for a rather sharp rise in public funding (the CNC’s automatic and selective aid, regional subsidies) which accounted for 10% of FIF budgets last year, the highest level since 2004 and a natural result of anti-crisis measures (notably the doubling of selective aid and of increased automatic support in order to compensate for lost revenue vis-a-vis cinema admissions as caused by management of the pandemic). Producers covered 37.1% of budgets themselves, TV networks stumped up 30.1% and mandates (cinema distribution, screening via video and international sales) accounted for 15.3 %. The remainder of FIF funding comes from SOFICA companies (3.2%) and foreign capital (4.6%).

The €349.4m of investments made by TV networks in 2021 were divided between 221 films (196 FIFs and 25 minority productions), which is another record high (versus 131 films in the previous year and 171 in 2019). Canal+ remains the pillar of French film funding with its investment of €151.47m (its highest level since 2017) for 169 films, including 153 FIFs, although its pre-purchases in 2010 totalled an impressive €194.57m. As for other pay-TV networks, Orange Cinéma Séries committed €37.27m in investments (for 38 feature films, of which 34 FIFs) while Ciné+ provided €15.38m (for 168 films, of which 152 FIFs).

Funding for free-to-air channels also bounced back last year, with €143.97m invested in 126 films (including 115 FIFs) by way of France 2 (€38.71m for 40 titles, of which 39 FIFs), France 3 (€29.51m for 33 films, of which 32 FIFs), TF1 (€29.43, for 8 FIFs), M6 (€28.20m for 12 FIFs) and Arte France (€10.65m for 26 feature films, of which 17 FIFs). TNT’s non-historic free channels invested €7.47m across 27 pre-purchased FIFs, notably via 11 films for W9, and 8 for C8 and TMC, respectively.

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(Translated from French)

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