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France TV exits pic biz

No sales team will accompany AFM screenings

PARIS — Pubcaster France Televisions is closing France Television Distribution Cinema, the org’s film sales and acquisitions arm.

The company will screen three films at AFM, but there will be no sales team present. FTD chief exec Michel Liberman, chief operating officer Jean Paul Commin and U.S. acquisitions rep Emmanuel Itier are the only attendees, according to the company’s AFM lineup.

News of the closure was not official Wednesday, but staff were told earlier this week. Five people are being laid off. The company did not return calls Wednesday.

Better known for TV sales, FTD first made its presence felt in the film industry in 1998, when it acquired veteran sales agent Jacques-Eric Strauss’ President Films, one of France’s best known indie labels.

But with one or two exceptions, such as the Thomas Langmann-produced big-budget comedy “Le Boulet,” FTD cinema failed to grow into a big league player.

The closure comes amid tough times for the international sales biz, which has been hit by the decline in the European pay TV market. Competition is particularly tough in France, where an array of indies are scrambling to maintain their positions in a contracting market.

Last year veteran exporter Jacques Leglou was forced to sell his Mercure label and broadcaster TF1 restructured its international sales department.

“The difficulties in the pay TV market have had a domino effect, and these days international sales are much riskier than in the past,” said Raphael Berdugo, prexy of Roissy Films and recently appointed head of France’s Assn. of Film Exporters. “It doesn’t surprise me that a TV group like France Televisions might prefer to concentrate on more profitable activities.”

The three movies screening at AFM are “The Rashevskis’ Tango,” helmed by Sam Garbarski and produced by Entre Chien et Loup with Archipel 35; the Juan Carlos Tabio-helmed “Aunque Estes Lejos” (So Far Away), produced by Tornasol Films and ICAIC; and “L’autre” (The Missing Half), directed by Benoit Mariage and produced by K Star.

FTD also is handling sales on Francois Dupeyron’s “Inguelezi,” produced by Les Films en Hiver; it’s currently in post-production.

“We’ve been assured that there won’t be any problems with our deal,” a production exec on the pic said.

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