France’s National Film Board (CNC) has temporarily changed the country’s strict window release policy to help distributors cope with the shutdown of theaters, and has unveiled several additional measures aimed at content creators and industry professionals.
Due to the fact that movie theaters in France have been closed for nearly three weeks, the CNC has allowed 31 recently-released French films to come out immediately on DVD and transactional VOD as part of exceptional measures set in an emergency bill that gives the government special powers during the pandemic.
The batch of movies includes movies that were released theatrically within the last three months, as well as films that were in theaters as of March 14, when cinemas were ordered to shut down by the government. Among these 31 pics are Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s “The Truth,” Olivier Assayas’s “Wasp Network,” Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” and Sam Mendes’s “1917.”
The usual windowing system in France sets DVD and transactional VOD windows at four months and doesn’t permit films to be released straight to DVD or VOD if they have been financed by French TV channels and have received subsidies from the CNC as film works.
The CNC has also allowed movies that were initially scheduled to come out in theaters between March 18 and now to roll out on VOD and DVD during the lockdown. As such, distributors and producers who chosen to have their films released directly on home entertainment – instead of postponing their theatrical releases – will not have to reimburse the subsidies that were allocated to them by the CNC. Those measures will probably limit some of the damage that will be caused by an avalanche of rescheduled film releases hitting theaters in the summer and fall.
Aside from the rescue plans recently unveiled by the government for business owners, employees and freelancers, the CNC also announced, in collaboration with the SACD (the society of authors, composers and directors), that an indemnity will be given to each author who has seen his/her activity decrease by at least 50% in March and/or April compared with last year.
Moreover, producers, distributors, exhibitors, video publishers and exhibitors who are struggling will be allowed to use as much as 30% of their automatic subsidies (compte de soutien) in anticipation of any future earnings. This compte de soutien works like a savings account that is funded by a percentage of theatrical admission receipts and can normally only be used to develop new projects.
Even before coronavirus hit the French film business, it had been a difficult start of the year for the local industry, especially distributors. Besides the lack of a proper anti-piracy law, French producers and distributors have been hurt by a B.O. drop of more than 20% during the first quarter.