Foreign investment in Gallic cinema leaps up

PARIS — Some 860 million euros ($948 million) was spent making 200 French films in 2002, four down on the previous year, the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) said Tuesday.

But while total investment dropped 3%, foreign investment in Gallic cinema leaped up 30 % over 2001. Belgium and the U.K. came out as the two biggest backers of French pics.

The report appears to sweep away recent fears that too many French films are being made, flooding the market and pushing out smaller arthouse fare.

While the trend toward costlier productions that began in 2001 remained stable last year, so did the number of films made at opposite end of the budget. Nine films costing $16.5 million were made in 2002, the same as the year before, and an impressive 41 films with budgets of $1 million or less were made, compared with 42 in 2001.

Furthermore, films costing more than $7.7 million swallowed only half of the entire budget, the lowest level in the past three years. The priciest Gallic pic of 2002 is Jan Kounen’s yet-to-be-released $40 million “Blueberry.”

The number of pics lensed on a budget of between $5.5 million-$7 million doubled from 15 to 31.

Vivendi Universal subsid Canal Plus remains the largest investor in French cinema due to a diversity clause written into its quotas in 2000. However 2002 saw a drop in Canal Plus’ outlay for Gallic pics, hardly surprising given the financial difficulties of the group and its parent.

Canal pre-bought 98 Gallic films in 2002 costing $129 million, compared with 111 pics for $162 million in 2001, the CNC said.

However Canal Plus’s head of French film acquisitions, Nathalie Bloch-Laine, disputed the CNC figures and said that Canal had pre-bought 112 French flicks last year, adding “The CNC’s criteria differ from those of Canal Plus.”

Satellite platform TPS pre-bought 16 Gallic pics for $25 million, and terrestrial webs plowed $80 million into French film.

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