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Pirates Gain as Film Biz Burns in France

Lack of accord on theatrical windows makes things worse

It’s been six months since former Canal Plus CEO Pierre Lescure, charged by the French government to conduct a study that would result in a new antipiracy strategy, released his report outlining the recommendations. But lawmakers, under President Francois Hollande, remain tangled in a web of conflicting interests, from rights-holders and exhibitors to TV channels and digital players.

Meanwhile, one sanction of the previous law — which suspended an offender’s Internet service after three warnings — was removed in July, while the film biz has since seen a decline in B.O. and local share, and the biz deadlocks over release windows, which some say must change before the sector can recover.

At the recent Rencontres Cinematographiques, a two-day confab organized by the guild of authors, directors and producers in Dijon in late October, industryites bemoaned the state of limbo.

“(The previous law’s) sanctions have been replaced with nothing, and that’s creating a legal vacuum,” said Rodolphe Belmer, the deputy general director of Canal Plus.

Nonce Paolini, CEO of France’s top commercial network, TF1, said that during the fi rst quarter of 2013, the company noted 25,000 links to entire movies on YouTube. “That gives you an idea of the damage done to films.”

According to Paolini, DVD and Blu-ray sales have declined 16% in Gaul over the year’s first quarter, with VOD sales off 6.5% during that time.

French box office as a whole is also down. Richard Patry, prexy of the FNCF (France’s federation of exhibitors), said local B.O. is on pace to end the year off 10% vs. 2012.

Much of the blame for France’s rampant piracy has been ascribed to the nation’s rigid theatrical release windows: Subscription VOD services cannot gain access to a film until 36 months after its theatrical opening. Films for single-transaction VOD services have it comparatively better — they have to wait only four months for access to a movie.

Lescure’s report calls for films to become available on pay VOD three months, and on SVOD 18 months, after their theatrical run. However, Gaul’s gatekeepers of content — exhibitors and TV channels — are digging in to battle any easing of exclusivity.

In Dijon, TV honchos Paolini and Belmer jointly dismissed the idea of shortening the SVOD window, claiming it would primarily serve the interests of platforms like Netflix and Amazon, which are both eyeing moves into France.

(Pictured: French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti, left, SACD president Pascal Rogard, former Canal Plus CEO Pierre Lescure and Canal Plus honcho Rodolphe Belmer converse at Rencontres Cinematographiques.)

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