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Pay channels feud over pix

Canal Plus, TPS fight throws Gallic financing into frenzy

PARIS — French film financing recently has been thrown into a frenzy thanks to an ongoing feud between paybox Canal Plus and rival digital platform Television par Satellite (TPS). With the two battling it out for rights, the film industry essentially has been split down the middle.

TPS recently signed an accord with the Bureau de Liaisons des Industries Cinematographiques (BLIC), which established a timeline for airing films on television after theatrical runs and includes many of the industry’s major players. Canal Plus, meanwhile, has joined forces with the Bureau de Liaisons des Organisations Cinematographiques (BLOC), a group of former disgruntled BLIC members, mostly independent producers and distributors.

Still, it looks like Canal Plus continues to hold most of the cards. Virtually no films get made in France without a pay TV pre-buy pact, and almost no movie gets made without Canal Plus, the largest single investor in French cinema. And should producers start lining up their films to air on TPS channels first, Canal prexy Pierre Lescure and his team would not be beyond playing hardball.

Just one small example of how far Canal Plus’ power extends is the financing makeup of the recent “Je Regle Mon Pas Sur le Pas de Mon Pere,” the directorial debut of “Ridicule” scripter Remi Waterhouse. The film is produced by Gallic production company Epithete and M6 Films. Curiously, although M6 is a 25% shareholder in TPS, it’s Canal Plus who owns pay TV rights.

Apart from the TV battle, financing is pretty straightforward in France. A dossier is dropped at the Centre National du Cinema (CNC), where a panel of experts decides how much funding a picture should receive, based on the script and a new system of points. This points method was established in February and gives incentives to French crews and companies first, then to other Europeans and so on.

In France, the CNC is considered to be more attuned to the work and not who’s investing the money, so there’s not much room for specific incentives.