French filmmaking rose again in ’08

Production lifted by coin from TV companies

PARIS — French filmmaking powered up in 2008, with budgets and production levels rising for the second year running.

The number of French-nationality pic productions rose to 240 last year from 203 in 2006 and 228 in 2007.

The hike is largely explained by a leap in 100% Gallic pics and majority French co-productions, up to 196 in 2008 from 186 in 2007.

Several factors are at play. France’s worst economic slump in 80 years hadn’t really kicked in when most 2008 movies were put into production.

Also, French film production is relatively resilient during financial market downturns.

“The French production system isn’t based on equity. Money doesn’t come from banks; it comes principally from TV stations, CNC subsidy coin and minimum guarantees from domestic distributors,” said Patrick Lamassoure, Film France managing director.

Most large distributors — Pathe, Gaumont, UGC — can leverage strong cash flow or are also owned by TV stations: StudioCanal, SND, TFM Distribution.

TV stations are obliged by law to invest part of annual revenues in French and European films. A plunge in their annual sales could hit French pic production hard.

“But that doesn’t happen from one year to the next,” Lamassoure added.

French investment in domestic pic production skyrocketed 28.6% to 1.22 billion euros ($1.6 billion).

Much of it was driven by two high-bracket animation features from EuropaCorp, both directed by Luc Besson: “Arthur and the Two Worlds War” ($89.3 million) and “Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard” ($82.0 million), plus Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s docu “Oceans” ($64.7 million).

(Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.)

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