UCG vs. Pathe cheap-rate war worries gov't, too

PARIS — French helmer Pierre Jolivet, VP of French directors and producers association ARP, on Thursday called for a radical reform of the country’s film economy in response to “dangerous” cheap-rate cinema passes recently launched by leading exhibitors UGC and Pathe.

UGC launched its $14 dollar-a-month Carte Illimite in the spring.

Pathe followed suit two weeks ago, launching its identically priced Cine a Volonte. Both passes allow for unlimited attendance at respective chains.

Both France’s Competition Council and Culture Ministry are investigating the situation.

While the exhibitors optimistically claim that the passes will boost cinema attendance, almost every sector of the film industry is hostile to the plan, from furious indie exhibitors who complain the cards will put them out of business to distributors who fear they will be cheated out of revenue — while exhibs cash in on increased concession sales.

Subsidies at risk?

Filmmakers like Jolivet worry that the subscription-based cinema pass will undermine France’s highly complex system of subsidies that plows back into new production a percentage of every ticket sold. (Even the U.S. blockbusters that dominate the French box office help finance French films.)

Underlying the concern for the subsidy system, though, are deeper fears that the passes will encourage the casual consumption of film, a prospect that horrifies French cinema purists.

“I think it is dangerous that a country like France, which has defended its right to protect its culture, treats the seventh art in this manner,” Jolivet lamented. “The UGC pass amounts to treating cinema like any other product of mass consumption.”

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