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France Aims to Lure Large Productions With Big Studio Expansions

With Luc Besson’s Cite du Cinema and the Bry-sur-Marne studios both facing uncertain futures, France hopes to lure ambitious productions with a vast new studio complex in Bretigny, on the outskirts of Paris, and with a revamped La Victorine, the historic 100-year-old studio on the French Riviera.

Lacking a facility as large as Pinewood in the U.K. or Babelsberg in Germany, France has struggled to attract big productions for non-exterior shoots, despite the fact that its tax incentive for international productions is highly competitive, offering a 30% tax rebate capped at €30 million ($33.5 million) per project. Private and public investors are now working to remedy the situation by ordering up studios that combine top-notch technology with massive back lots and sound stages.

Bretigny Studios is based at a former air force base in Plessis-Pâté, near Paris, and boasts a 20-acre back lot. Launched in 2018, the new studios are operated by TFS Groupe, the company that also runs the Epinay Studios near Paris.

Post-production industry veteran Thierry de Segonzac heads TFS Groupe, which is seeking investment partners to help it build nine sound stages ranging from about 10,800 square feet to 32,300 square feet apiece at Bretigny next year.

The studio, whose shareholders include the high-profile production banners Mandarin Cinema and First Step, has already hosted big-budget shoots, notably Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy,” a period piece headed to the Venice Film Festival about the Dreyfus Affair in 19th century France, and “The Emperor of Paris,” starring Vincent Cassel as Francois Vidocq, a real-life ex-convict who became a police detective during Napoleon’s reign. Bretigny is now hosting the production of “Eiffel,” a film starring Romain Duris and Emma Mackey (“Sex Education”), revolving around the untold love story behind the creation of the Eiffel Tower.

In the south of France, the city of Nice has recently greenlit the financing of a 32,300-square-foot sound stage at La Victorine, the Hollywood-style studio founded in 1919. The stage is budgeted at about €8 million ($8.9 million), with construction expected to start next year, according to Eric Garandeau, the former president of the French national film board.

Garandeau envisioned and put together the business plan for the restoration of La Victorine. The entire renovation project, whose budget has been estimated in the €45 million ($50.2 million) range by Ernst & Young, has just been presented to the regional finance committee in Marseille.

La Victorine sits on seven acres in Nice, and boasts 10 sets of 64,314 square feet but no back lot. La Victorine has hosted shoots for iconic movies directed by Roger Vadim (“…And God Created Woman”), Jacques Deray (“La Piscine”), François Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock, among others.

The overhaul plan envisions an on-site museum dedicated to the history of La Victorine, with old sets and machinery, as well as a restaurant. The project also calls for a cluster of digital companies and a school named Les Compagnons de la Victorine to be established there. The studio is in discussion with other studios in France, notably the Provence Studios, and in Southern Europe to forge a potential alliance.

La Victorine’s committee is presided over by Costa-Gavras and comprises Alain Kruger, Warner Bros. France president Iris Knobloch, Arte president Veronique Cayla, and top line producers Raphael Benoliel (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”) and John Bernard (“Dunkirk”).

The largest studios in France are currently Bry-sur-Marne and the Cité du Cinema, but both are facing tough times. Bry-sur-Marne, whose recent shoots include the submarine thriller “The Wolf’s Call,” has been put on the market by its owner, Nexity, with a price tag said to be well above the bid of its potential buyer, B-Live. Meanwhile, Besson’s Cité du Cinema, which is home to nine sound stages covering 120,000 square feet, hasn’t had a film shoot in a while and will be taken over by the Olympic Games in 2024.

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