PARIS — Attempting to go where no U.S. major has gone before, Warner Bros. is setting up a French-led production house to tap into Gallic state subsidies.
Move reps the first time a U.S. major has tried to circumvent the strict laws that prohibit non-European production outfits from receiving coin from the Centre National du Cinema (CNC); if successful, it could open the flood gates to other U.S. studios.
In line with CNC guidelines, the new company will be 100% French. It will be headed by Francis Boespflug, topper of Warner Bros. France.
The CNC subsidy rules were meant to shut out the majors: They are based on ticket sales and given automatically to French-lingo pics after their release, with the stipulation that the money be reinvested in Gallic productions.
Gaul’s protectionist laws and attitudes have inspired much criticism from Hollywood, making Warner’s deal look like an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” move.
While the French film industry is not hostile to the idea, many are advising extreme vigilance to ensure that the aid given to films produced by the new company goes to French pics and not into Warner’s coffers.
The first film to be produced by the new Gallic outfit, and eligible for the CNC subsidy, will be Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s e40 million ($47 million) pic “A Very Long Engagement,” starring Audrey Tautou.