Investment down 19% in first quarter

PARIS — The French film biz continues to downsize.

Total investment in films originated in France in the first quarter plunged 19% to E222 million ($300 million) year-on-year, according to a report published Wednesday by Gaul’s Ficam technical industry trade org.

The drop follows a 25% fall in investment in 2009, down to $1.32 billion.

Last year 158 movies were shot compared to 176 in 2008, according to Ficam.

Production levels held up over the first three months of 2010, with 38 films rolling against 39 in 2009.

But there were fewer films budgeted above $8.6 million and the number of pics budgeted at under $1.3 million doubled.

France is outsourcing some pics to territories such as Belgium and the U.K. with more favorable film tax regimes, said “A Prophet” producer Gregoire Sorlat at Why Not Prods.

Ficam said “Largo Winch 2″ and “Voyez comme ils dansent,” both costing above $13 million, shot abroad for economic reasons.

In the first quarter, only two French pics with budgets above $26 million rolled — “Largo Winch 2,” which is repped for foreign sales by Wild Bunch, and Dany Boon’s Pathe-produced “Nothing to Declare.”

French pics face an ever tougher international market, given the rise of local production industries in most parts of the worlds, Sorlat added.

Big pics from France have an increasingly difficult time selling to the U.S., which used to rep a substantial chunk of Euro pic financing.

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