Legislation seeks to limit French cinema passes

PARIS — French indie exhibs and arthouses, directors and producers are crying victory over new legislation to restrict the unlimited-entry cinema passes that have taken France by storm.

The new rule, added to a bill in the lower house of parliament Wednesday, requires a price to be set for each cinema entry. This means authorities can calculate the percentage of ticket intake plowed back into the industry under French law.

It also forces large exhibitors, who introduced the $14-a-month cards last March, to open up the passes to small exhibitors and guarantee them a cut of the take.

The Assn. of Directors & Producers (ARP) and the French Assn. of Art Houses (AFCAE) said the move “maintains balance among exhibitors and guarantees creative diversity.”

UGC was the first to introduce the carte illimitee, followed by Gaumont, MK2 and Pathe. Moviegoers have snapped up 200,000 of them since March.

Film industry upset

But the French film industry has been up in arms, fearing the passes would upset the complex funding of French cinema production and end the arthouse as they know it.

Patrick Brouiller, president of the arthouse org, told Daily Variety that if the new bill meant the end of the cards, “so much the better.”

“How can the French claim that cinema is a cultural exception, that cannot be sold like soapsuds, and then allow these cards, which sell films like unlimited consumer merchandise? Even the Americans, who are the ultimate free-marketeers, never dared go so far,” he said.

The major exhibitors have refused to comment on the bill.

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