Initiative aims to make feature funding easier

BRUSSELS — The European Commission and the European Investment Bank on Tuesday released details of a $445.2 million financial support package for the European film industry over the next three years.

One company that already stands to benefit is France’s Canal Plus, which will reportedly receive assistance for digitizing its film archives.

Initiative, announced jointly by EIB president Philippe Maystadt and EU culture commissioner Viviane Reding, is intended to make it easier for European producers to finance projects.

The package consists of different types of funding for the industry.

  • Banks that specialize in providing financing for small- and medium-sized production and technology companies will be able to apply for loans from the EIB to distribute as they see fit.

    “This area has proved to be a real bottleneck in the past, and we are hoping this new package will speed the whole process up,” said EIB spokesman Orlando Arango.

    Unlike most banks backing films, the EIB will not receive the copyrights to the projects. It hopes this will set a precedent among other banks.

  • Financial assistance will be made available to larger companies in television, production or distribution from both the public and private sector, for investment in infrastructure such as studios, digital installations and broadcasting stations.

    A source from the EIB told Daily Variety that Spanish broadcaster Retevision will receive financing to upgrade its digital terrestrial radio and TV broadcasting network.

  • Risk capital funds will be provided for the audiovisual sector from the European Investment Fund, which supports the development of small enterprises. The EIB signed a deal Tuesday with Finnish org Venture Fund for Creative Industries, which will distribute $14.75 million to small media businesses in Scandinavia.

This new financial package will complement the Media Plus program, a recent $340 million fund for European audiovisual initiatives announced by EU ministers in November. Several joint projects are planned to support cooperation between European distributors and help develop digital film archiving.

Europe’s audiovisual industry is growing rapidly. Valued at $62.6 billion in 1999, it is growing at an estimated 10% per year.

The announcement was welcomed by groups representing European filmmakers.

Joao Correa, director general of the Intl. Assn. of Audiovisual Writers and Directors, told Daily Variety that he is “very pleased with the deal they have come up with. However, I think they need to clarify more specifically the areas they are targeting.”

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