Gallic Film Producers Seek Out Foreign

French film productions spent $202 million abroad in 2012

PARIS — The dwindling flow of Gallic coin to local pics didn’t stop French producers making films last year, but it did spur them to look abroad for financing.

Films lead-produced by French producers — a total of 209 pics in 2012 — spent €158 million ($202 million) in production coin overseas, up 89% on 2011.

According to a report by the CNC, the government-backed agency responsible for the production and promotion of cinematic and audiovisual arts, it’s the highest level since 2003, a year before the local tax shelter was passed.

However, money should flow back to France this year after the maximum tax rebate per film was increased from $1.2 million to $5.1 million.

France was involved in 129 international co-productions, up nine on 2011 — a 30-year record. These pics were co-produced with companies from 37 countries.

French investment in majority foreign co-productions rose by 6.1% to $354.3 million.

Although the average budget of French films went down, there were more pics budgeted above $19.2 million, which suggests an increased focus on the international market. But some of them failed to deliver solid performances.

Helmer Alain Chabat’s $48.4 million “Houba on the Trail of the Marsupilami,” a Pathe-produced comedy adventure, was France’s most expensive film. It was followed by Luc Besson-produced, $33 million actioner “Colombiana,” starring Zoe Saldana, and MK2-produced “On the Road,” Walter Salles’ $32.9 million adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic, toplining Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart. “Colombiana” had the biggest box office: $60.9 million worldwide.

The most expensive animated film produced in France in 2012 was Bibo Bergeron’s “A Monster in Paris,” again set up at Besson’s EuropaCorp. It was budgeted at $40.6 million and grossed $23.5 million in international markets, including France. Besson said last May that his company will not produce another animated film.

The biggest setback for French producers trying to tap local coin was the drop in TV financing. Investment from Gallic free-to-air and pay TV nets, which must dedicate 60% of their revenues to pre-financing French and European content, fell by 7.3% to $435 million.

Commercial net TF1 slashed its investment in films by 34% in 2012 to $43.6 million, pre-buying 17 pics with an average budget of $17 million.

TF1, France’s ratings leader, has been on local broadcasting authorities’ radar because it has been increasingly focusing money on bigger-budget, mainstream films that can take a big audience share in primetime, and hardly puts any coin in lower-budget, arthouse pics.

Paybox Canal Plus was again France’s biggest film backer, injecting $239 million into 130 films.

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