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France: Gallic embrace of format opens up new problems

Cannes 3D Report: France

Gaul is firming up its position as Europe’s market leader for 3D, with 1,606 3D screens as of April 19.

With the onslaught of stereoscopic Hollywood franchises, including “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Transformers” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” skedded to hit theaters soon, France’s largest theater chains, UGC, CGR and Europalaces, have accelerated their 3D screen buildup.

Over 300 new 3D screens were deployed in France from January to March, which marks the largest screen buildup in Europe over a three-month period, says Charlotte Jones, senior analyst at IHS Screen Digest, adding that the number of 3D screens in France has hit 29% of total screens, up from 24% at the end of 2010.

More local producers are getting into the 3D game, backed by the the national film board — CNC — which has increased its support fund for 3D productions to $7.1 million in 2011, up from $3 million in 2010. Body injected those funds into 50 3D pics, shorts, toons and docs out of 87 projects submitted (43 more than in 2009).

This year’s high-profile French 3D productions include Michel Ocelot’s art toon “Tales of the Night” and Antoine Charreyron’s thriller “The Prodigies.” Big-budget live-action offerings include Laurent Tirard’s “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia” and Christophe Gans’ “Fantomas,” which are both based on popular French comicbooks.

But Jones says that the increase of 3D releases in 2011 “continues to present a challenge for European producers looking to find space on the 3D screen network, but even so adequate scheduling will remain crucial.”

Meanwhile, after a slow start, French exhibs, including UGC, CGR, MK2, are finally embracing alternative content, such as operas and concerts. CielEcran remains Gaul’s leading distributor of sports events, live concerts and operas to Europalaces, along with four other circuits.

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