Distribs fight Hollywood juggernaut

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FRANCE

In 2009, an avalanche of Hollywood 3D tentpoles, including “Avatar” and “Ice Age 3,” drove the French B.O. to an all-time record high with €1.2 billion ($1.8 billion) from some 200 million admissions. And the upward trend has continued this year with a 16% year-on-year increase through February, fueled by “Avatar’s” success.

Meanwhile, the marketshare for French indie distributors is shrinking. Apart from a dozen French outfits, including Wild Bunch, Pathe, EuropaCorp and SND, most local distribs have been squeezed out of the mainstream market.

“We have to be extra cautious about the films we chose to put minimum guarantees on,” says Eric Lagesse, CEO of Pyramide Distribution.

Across the board, the major concerns for local indies are the skyrocketing cost of P&A and the 66.7% drop of French TV pre-buys of Gallic majority pics, says Lagesse.

For SND, which focuses on U.S. pics and distributes the “Twilight” franchise, the main challenge is the scarcity of big American titles available for pickups, says Olivier Lebraud, SND marketing and promotion topper.

In 2009, the VOD biz rose by 57.7% to $109 million. Movie downloads made up 64.9% of online sales — 30.4% of which were French pics. Finally, DVD sales remained stable last year thanks to lower-priced promotions and the shift of the theatrical-to-DVD release window from six to four months.

Total 2009 box office: $1.8 billion

Total 2009 releases: 588

Top 2009 indie film: “Little Nicholas,” $48.2 million

Top 2010 indie pickups:

• “Insidious,” Wild Bunch

• “Gino,” Mars Distribution

• “The Long Falling,” Diaphana

• “Red,” SND

• “The Beaver,” SND

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