38% of higher-budget Gallic pix lense abroad

PARIS — The Gallic box office may have reached record highs last year, but homegrown film production fell 12%, according to a report from Ficam, the French film technicians’ org.

There were 176 films produced last year compared with 201 in 2010, the report states. Animation took the biggest hit, dropping 70% to three productions; documentary production fell 30% to 16.

However, the level of runaway production — French films shooting abroad — remained stable last year, if calculated by the number of weeks spent filming outside the country.

Some 24%, or 1,279 weeks, of productions lensed abroad. However, 38% of films with budgets above €20 million ($25.5 million) lensed abroad.

“Since the inception of the tax rebate in 2004, the number of runaway shoots has gone below 30%, which means that to some extent the rebate was effective,” said Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, the national film commission. “But we’re highly concerned that almost 40% of big-budget productions, which are the most vital to the local economy, lense outside of France.”

Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada continue to be popular destinations for French productions seeking generous tax incentives.

The 20% Gallic rebate, capped at €1 million ($1.27 million), is more attractive to productions with budgets up to $12.7 million.

Lamassoure says that 2011’s level of runaway production was, however, better than 2010 when it reached what he called a catastrophic 76% for $25.5 million-plus productions.

Relocation of film shoots abroad had an impact on 21% of technical services companies in France, notably studios, filming equipment companies and post-production outfits.

Investment in Gallic films remained stable at $200 million, down only 1%. But Ficam said the figure was bolstered by 3D pic “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia!,” which has an estimated budget of $76 million. The average budget for local productions is $7.6 million, compared with $7.2 million in 2010.

Seven films with budgets above $25.5 million started to lense in 2011, the same as 2010. The films were Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” Gerard Depardieu starrer “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia!,” Olivier Dahan’s “The Lords,” Fabien Onteniente’s “Turf,” Christian Duguay’s Guillaume Canet starrer “Jappeloup,” Olivier Megaton’s “Taken 2,” starring Liam Neeson, and Pierre Morel-produced actioner “Overdrive.”

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