France pix up prod’n

Country boasts record 212 Gallic films in 2003

PARIS — French film production was more dynamic than expected in 2003, with a record 212 films accredited by the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC) up 5% on 2002.

The figure, which beats 2001’s 20-year record of 204 films, includes 183 films that are either wholly or majority French productions, up 10% on the previous year.

Films like Oliver Stone’s English-language “Alexander,” co-produced by Pathe, are among 29 minority French productions, down from 37 in 2002.

The stats given by the CNC Wednesday confounded Gallic industryites who’d been expecting a slump in the number of movies being made, due to increasingly scarce production coin.

“I’m surprised,” said Marie-Paul Biosse-Duplan, director of the Union of Film Producers, whose large membership of established indies includes the likes of Luc Besson and Thomas Langmann. “On the basis of our members’ contributions we had been expecting the number of films to be down in 2003.”

Canal Plus, French cinema’s principal backer, still invests 9% — roughly $170 million — of its revenues in Gallic pics. But that amount is redistributed much more selectively than in the past and because French production has grown more films get turned down.

In 2002 the paybox pre-bought 60% of all French films produced, compared with 80% two years previously.

Echoing a widespread industry gripe, Biosse-Duplan said that these days a presale to Canal Plus reps 15%-20% of a film’s budget whereas it used to cover 30%-35%.

“It’s a struggle for producers to find other sources of finance,” she said.

To make the numbers add up, Gallic producers are increasingly turning to international presales, a new Gallic tax break which came into effect Jan. 1 and coin from France’s regional authorities.

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