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Pathe bows cheap pass

Following UGC debate, French exhib unveils 'Cine a volonte'

PARIS — Spurred on by the overwhelming success of bigger rival UGC’s controversial cut-price cinema pass, French exhibitor Pathe went on the offensive Wednesday with the launch of an identical offer.

Initially, the $14 dollar-a-month “Cine a volonte” pass will only be valid for Pathe’s Atlantis multiplex in the coastal city of Nantes.

But Pathe’s marketing director Xavier Orsel said Wednesday the scheme could be extended to Pathe’s 25 theaters across the country.

Pathe is France’s third largest exhibitor behind UGC and Gaumont with a 10% market share.

Having spent months avidly campaigning against UGC’s “Carte Illimitee,” which sold to 65,000 eager customers within weeks of its launch, film industry groups who fear such passes will destroy indie exhibs reacted bitterly Wednesday.

Pressure from them had forced UGC to withdraw its pass in May. But it was back on sale last week following a decision from France’s Competition council.

Meanwhile, a recent report commissioned by the French film authority, the Centre National de Cinematographie (CNC), seemed to support UGC’s theory that the pass would lead to an overall increase in cinema attendance.

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