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New Studio, Higher Rebates Boost Film Production in France

New rebates, Cite du Cinema puts Gaul on equal footing with U.K., Germany

France is coming off a year overshadowed by a lack of big-budget U.S. shoots. Despite this drought, Gallic player Luc Besson has managed to feed the pipeline of his 9-month-old brainchild, the Cite du Cinema studio complex outside Paris, with two major movies from his own film factory EuropaCorp: “Malavita,” a crime thriller toplining Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, which he helmed; and the McG-directed “The Days to Kill,” toplining Kevin Costner and Amber Heard.

Along with these, Cite hosted Fred Cavaye’s action-packed thriller “Mea Culpa,” produced by LGM and Gaumont; and Sony Pictures Animation’s live-action/CGI hybrid Smurfs 2.

The studio, which is co-owned by facilities provider Euro Media France and operated by subsid Transpamedia, has a lot going for it: top-notched infrastructure and services, a convenient location (a few miles from Charles de Gaulle airport and a 10-minute drive from Paris), an on-site film school, EuropaCorp’s headquarters (overseen by Besson and business partner Christophe Lambert) and the offices of various indie producers.

LGM shot 80% of Cavaye’s action-packed “Mea Culpa” at the Cite, where it recreated a high-speed train carriage inside the studios, says Jean-Baptiste Dupont, LGM co-prexy.

“The Cite du Cinema has a double advantage,” says David Giordano, LGM exec producer. “It’s the first studio that’s accessible by subway from Paris’ city center and it’s run by film industry folks.”

He adds that the Ile de France region (comprising Paris and its suburbs) only has two other major studios — Bry-sur-Marne and Epinay — and both are located much farther from the capital.

The question of the day, however, is whether Gaul and its mega-studio complex will be able to catch up to its European rivals, notably the U.K.’s Pinewood and Germany’s Babelsberg, as they all chase big U.S. productions.

The answer really depends on a number of factors.

Gaul’s tax rebate for international productions, which is capped at $5 million, now looks set to rise to a maximum $13 million, and to include hotel expenses. That itself will put Gaul on an equal footing with the U.K. and Germany.

The European Commission is expected to give its seal of approval in the coming months, and foreign productions that have been hosted in Gaul since the beginning of the year will be eligible for the rebate, according to Olivier-Rene Veillon, managing director at the Ile de France Film Commission.

Another significant change that will likely boost foreign shoots’ activity in Gaul: the creation of a rebate, capped at 5,000 euros ($6,510) per minute, for higher-bracket international TV drama series shot in foreign languages.

On the heels of this new rebate’s announcement, Euro Media France has stepped into international co-productions to fast-track collaborations with foreign producers.

The company has just signed its first co-development deal on an international production with Canada’s Muse Entertainment on ReelzChannel’s $30 million miniseries “After Camelot,” the sequel to “The Kennedys.”

“The new rebate is a wonderful opportunity for us to attract foreign shoots,” says Euro Media France’s deputy CEO Anne Gourdon. “We have a lot to provide on top of the shooting facilities and post-production services: we can raise up a big chunk of the financing from French subsidies and TV channel pre-sales. And in exchange, 30% of the production will have to take place in France.”

Other international TV series preparing to lens in France include Canal Plus-commissioned Versailles, which is penned by Maria and Andre Jacquemetton (Mad Men).

Veillon pointed out that in spite of a decline in U.S. shoots in 2012, France continued to be increasingly attractive to productions arriving from China, India and Russia, many of which were not eligible for the tax rebate (as their expenditures in Gaul were under e1 million).

In 2011, Gaul hosted a slew of Asian shoots, notably Jackie Chan’s action comedy Chinese Zodiac and TV skeins, such as Chinese drama series “Flowers and Fog.”

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