French Film Financing: International Sales Surged,

While French TV channels and local distributors continued to reduce their investment in movies, international sales played a much bigger part in French film financing in 2013, with 158.2 million Euros ($217.6 million) collected in minimum guarantees for 92 films.

Figures were unveiled by the National Film and TV Board, CNC, in its annual report.

Revenues from international, theatrical and home entertainment sales on 193 movies (including 157 French or French-majority films) reached $375.7 million, a 22.3% year-on increase.

According to the ADEF (French sales agents association), these distribution deals covered 14% of an average budget.

Meanwhile, French producers became the number one financiers of their movies, accounting for 28.8% of budgets.

Foreign sales’ minimum guarantees, however, reached an average $2.36 million per film — 23.3% of a budget — skyrocketing 143% compared with 2012. As many as 92 films received foreign sales coin, getting up to $217.6 million in MG.

“As every year, the MG figure is bloated by a handful of big-budget movies – notably Luc Besson’s “Lucy” (with Scarlett Johansson) and (Robert de Niro starrer) “Malavita” — but the report certainly underscores the fact that international sales, which used to play a marginal role, are now very important in the funding of French movies and will eventually become the first source of financing going forward,” said Laurent Danielou, prexy of ADEF.

The findings of the CNC and ADEF coincide with a recent report conducted by Rene Bonnell, a film producer and former TV exec, which showed that international sales are now the main drivers of revenues for French movies in the short- and medium-term.

Sales agents represented by ADEF have been lobbying for some time to receive automatic subsidies from the CNC  (as do all other Gallic pics’ financiers, including producers, distributors and exhibitors) in order to increase their MG investments, continue taking risks on diverse films at an early stage and thrive in the increasingly competitive market.

As French theatrical distributors were the most impacted by last year’s declining market share of homegrown movies, they tightened their purse strings, investing $20.6 million, a 30.5% year-on drop. Less than a third of films produced in 2013 received minimum guarantees from distributors.

TV channels were no longer the top backers of French pics in 2013. Their investment via pre-buys and co-production fell 18.3% to $278.21 million, while investment from free-to-air nets reached a decade low, falling 20.6% to $101 million.

French channels that broadcast at least 52 movies a year must invest 3.2% of annual revenues in European movies, including 2.5% in French-language films. These include M6, TF1, Arte, D8, channels of pubcaster France Television and Gulli.

Pay TV channels invested $261.7 million, an 18% year-on drop. French paybox giant Canal Plus, which remains the biggest pay TV supporter of Gallic movies, invested $220.4 million  (a 14% decline compared with 2012) in 126 films.

Another important source of financing, SOFICA funds, which are tax-break funds created to invest in films and audiovisual works, poured $44 million in 99 movies in 2013, 19 less than in 2012. Out of the 15 most active SOFICA entities, Cinemage, La Banque Postale and Manon accounted for 40% of all investment.

First and second films repped 51.2% of French-led productions in 2013. Among the 208 French movies produced in 2013, 68 were directorial debuts.

The CNC report also highlighted gender inequality in France’s film production landscape. Out of the 74 directors who made their first films in 2013, only 27% were women.

There were six French animated features produced in 2012, half as many as in 2012. These included Mark Osborne’s “The Little Prince” (budget: $81.2 million), “Un Monde Truque,” directed by Franck Ekinci and Christian Desmares (budget: 12.4 million), “Gus,” helmed by Dominique Monfery and Christian Devita (budget: $11 million),  and Xavier Picard’s “Moomins on the Riviera” (budget $4.1 million).

As many 116 films — 43% of all French films were produced with international partners across 38 countries in 2013. But investment in these movies was scaled back by 22.9%, reaching $761 million. Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg were the top three co-production countries.

As previously announced, the average budget of a local movie reached a decade-low, falling from $5.1 million in 2012 to $4.8 million last year. Only 19 films produced in 2013 had budgets above $13.7 million, compared with 33 pics in 2012.

Four of the five biggest-budgeted movies that went into production last year are from Pathe: Mark Osborne’s animated feature “The Little Prince,” Christophe Gans’ fantasy “The Beauty and the Beast” ($34 million), Dany Boon’s “Supercondriaque” ($31.6 million, pictured above) and Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud’s docu “Les saisons” ($29.7 million).

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