UGC’s cheap passes under fire

Board of fair trading to decide fate of exhib's movie pass

PARIS — UGC, France’s biggest exhibitor, will be hauled before the country’s board of fair trading over a cheap price cinema pass it launched last month, the Culture Ministry announced Wednesday.

Until the board gives its verdict, culture minister Catherine Tasca wants UGC to stop selling the passes, which give unlimited entry to any of UGC’s 42 cinemas in France for around $15 a month over a minimum one-year period.

More than 17,000 film fans have already purchased the passes.

While rival exhibitors Gaumont and Pathe have not commented on the promotion, it has enraged smaller French exhibs and other sectors of the French film industry, who fear it will price arthouse cinemas and their less commercial films out of existence.

The culture minister’s move to rein in UGC follows the publication Tuesday of a report commissioned by the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), essentially France’s ministry of film.

The document, prepared by the CNC’s own mediator, concludes that the UGC pass may violate laws concerning fair competition and articles of French broadcasting law concerning the circulation of films.

A spokesman for UGC said the company was reviewing the situation and would comment no further.

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