Studio's 2003 Prods. declared eligible for funds

PARIS — Warner Bros. is poised to become the first Hollywood major in more than a decade to receive French cinema subsidies for its investment in helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s $45 million “A Very Long Engagement.”

After months of heated debate, the authorities have declared Gallic subsid Warner Bros. France’s new production entity, 2003 Prods., is a French company and entitled to the same funds available to other Gallic producers.

“We had doubts about whether the control of 2003 Prods. was French, but our lawyers say Warner Bros. France has removed those doubts,” Francois Hurard, head of cinema at France’s Centre National de la Cinematographie, told Daily Variety, adding that the film would receive its classification “in days.”

To meet the requirements of the CNC, which oversees French production and administers funding, WB modified the statutes of the new company to prove it was majority owned and controlled by French people. Warner Bros. France holds a 32% stake, with the rest divided between company employees.

The statutes specify that it will make only French-lingo movies — even though English-language pics including Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” and even Oliver Stone’s upcoming “Alexander” have qualified for French film funding.

While the Jeunet film will not be entitled to subsidies, a proportion of its Gallic box office takings will be set aside for Warner Bros. France to invest in future French films. If the film is a hit, that could amount to millions of dollars.

French film groups and some indie producers oppose Hollywood’s having access to French funding, on the grounds that the studios’ powerful financial muscle will give them an unfair advantage in nabbing the best projects and hottest talent.

Others point out that in the past, Hollywood coin financed the films of Louis Malle and Francois Truffaut without harming the Gallic industry.

Non-European companies were excluded from the French film funding system by a change in the law in the early 1990s.

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