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France narrows film release windows

Titles to move to VOD four months after theaters

BRUSSELS — France on Monday narrowed the windows between a film’s release and its debut on other platforms.

Titles will move to video-on-demand four months after they hit cinema screens instead of the present 7½ months under a new “media chronology” to which the industry and the government have agreed. The change puts VOD on a par with DVD release.

Pay TV webs will get titles 10 months after cinema release rather than 12 months. Free TV takes over at 22 months rather than at 24-36 months.

Gaul is unusual in having a highly regulated set of release windows overseen by the government and the industry, including exhibitors, distributors, producers, broadcast organizations and new-media companies.

The modifications formalize release windows for new media. With the government leading a crackdown on illegal movie downloads, the aim is also to encourage a more attractive legal alternative.

The industry agreement will be written up into a law within the week. Once in force, it will be reviewed every six months to assess its impact.

Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand promised further policy initiatives, including options for reduced tax on DVD sales and VOD services.

Exhibitors, meanwhile, are expecting a payoff for surrendering so much of their exclusivity. According to the AFP news agency, the National Federation of French Cinemas has discussed ways to cut the purchase cost of films with the government and other plans to support cinemas.

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