French indie cinema sector sounds alarm over future as arthouse box office slump deepens –

French cinema professionals from the country’s independent production, distribution and exhibition chains gathered at an emergency general convention in Paris this week to raise alarm over the future of their industry.

France has long prided itself on being the most cinematic country on the planet, but its indie cinema sector is increasingly realizing that in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the population has become a seventh art. Loved.


Figures released last week by the National Cinema Center (CNC) showed that September was the worst box office for the country in 42 years, with 7.38 million admissions, for a box office of $47 million, which will be released in September 2021. represents a 20.7 percent decline in 2019, and a 34.3 percent decline in the same month in 2019.

Admissions for the first nine months of 2022 are currently 30% below the average for the same period of 2017-2019. September’s decline was attributed to a lack of major US titles on release, but beyond that, the arthouse sector of the market has been ailing for months in the wake of the pandemic.

Other indie concerns include the continued rise of streaming platforms. How high-profile drama is gripping its audience. negotiations over France’s strict date laws protecting theater windows; The recent end of TV licenses and what it means for film finance, as well as the idea that cinemas are expensive to run amid a cost-of-living crisis.

CNC policies under the directorship of Dominique Boutonet are also being criticized. His drive to support high-end drama alongside more commercial cinema and to internationalize the sector has raised eyebrows among the country’s cinema purists, while others see it as an era of homogenization and universal content. Let’s see in practice.

There was no official presence of the CNC or the Ministry of Culture at the General Convention at the Institut du Monde in Paris on Thursday (October 6), and it did not go unnoticed.


Today, both the Culture Minister and the CNC were invited but they did not respond. If there is any body in the room, you are certainly welcome to speak,” said a moderator.

Meanwhile, film professionals filled the main auditorium of the Institut du Monde Arabe – where they were guests of former culture minister Jack Lang, who is now its director – watching the debates on the screens outside.


“We are gathered here around a concern that has been troubling us for months. It is time to sound the alarm in the name of love of cinema,” said producer Judith Lou Levy, a member of the gathering who organized the meeting. took action to hold

Elizabeth Perez at Chaz Productions added: “There’s no point in working so hard on our films if it’s not certain they’ll be released in three, five years. That’s where we are. Money, independent distributors, There will be no cinemas.

Under the banner of the États Généraux du Cinema, the convention echoed a 1968 gathering led by Claude Chabrol, Claude Lelouch, Jacques Rivette and Louis Malle.

But while France’s vibrant indie film sector has a long history of militancy, collective action and sounding the alarm about its future, there is a sense that the challenges at play are greater than ever.

“Over the summer, there were a number of articles asking if cinema was dead. We’ve been through crises before where cinema ‘died’ and cinema is still alive, as evident in all of you who are here today,” Etienne Aulagnier said.

The veteran distributor is co-head of indie label Jour2Fête, which has enjoyed recent festival success. Goodland And Under the fig trees On his current slate.

“But I think we’re now at an important crossroads where we independent professionals — distributors, exhibitors, writers and producers — need to collectively roll up our sleeves and take our destiny into our own hands. .We are in an emergency. We need to get audiences back into theaters now.

Thursday’s meeting grew out of an open letter in Le Monde newspaper during the Cannes Film Festival last May that condemned the current government and the CNC’s track record vis-à-vis cinema.

Written by a collection of top cinema professionals, incl Benedetta Produced by Saeed Bin Saeed, director Catherine Corsini and actress Carol Boquet, the memoir sparked a broader discussion and research over the summer about the challenges facing the sector, as well as a general convention to discuss the situation. demanded.

Have the French people fallen in love with cinema?

Gautier Labros, director of Lux Cinemas in the northern French port city of Caen, was among those sharing his findings and reflections on Thursday.

He explained how audiences returned after the first lockdown when cinemas reopened in the summer of 2020, but the second lockdown from October 2020 to May 2021 had a long-term impact on admissions and changed habits. .

He said that the second lockdown was much more harmful. “We realized that our audience, which has been noted here, is getting older, has equipped itself with screens, started taking subscriptions with platforms and watching more series.”

Labrusse suggests that the French film industry also has an image problem that has contributed to the public’s “falling in love” with cinema.

“For me, it’s premature, from the Polanski affair to the failure of Caesar.” he said.

He was referring to the controversy over Roman Polanski being nominated in multiple categories at the National César Film Awards. An officer and a detective Against a background of fresh accusations of s*xual abuse, and the meltdown of the César Academy in 2021 amid backlash over its lack of transparency that led to the resignation of the entire board.

“Our biggest concern is how together we can inspire people to go to the cinema again,” he said.

Severine Rocaboy, who has run the Les Étoiles cinema in the Paris suburbs for more than 30 years, also took to the stage.

“We are being asked to innovate but if we look at the films that are working. most important, Which is a reboot of a movie that came out 35 years ago, and a week ago it was Avatar. [re-release]Which attracted the most fans. [in France]. We are in a dangerous place.”

Rocaboy, a member of France’s National Consortium of Research Cinema, GNCR, suggested that the loss of theaters like this would have far-reaching implications for cinema around the world.

What “salle de recherche” (research cinema) is, is to go out and do research. If it wasn’t for research in medicine, we would still be treating people with bleeding and enemas. You understand my gist. It’s about trying things and taking risks,” she said.

“The GNCR celebrated its 30th anniversary and we created a geographic snapshot of the filmmakers we’ve supported. These included Abbas Kiarostami, Abdulrahman Sissakou, Wong Kar-wai, Naomi Kawase and Chantal Akerman. .

“We realized that if we hadn’t done what we did, taking risks and doing everything we could to make these films connect with our public, Jean Campion would have won the Cannes Palme d’Or. It would have, and neither would Bong Joon. -Ho. The paradox is that it takes time and we’re dealing with an emergency.

Government attitude towards cinema, time for rebellion

Producer Ben Said said the current French government’s attitude towards the cinema industry and changes to CNC’s funding process are also putting pressure on the sector.

“There is a myth that French cinema and its professionals are subsidized by the CNC. The reality is that all the CNC regulates is the circulation of money, which is derived from the exploitation of films,” he said. , citing the 10.7 percent tax on every cinema ticket returned to the film industry.

“It is redistributed as automatic support, a kind of bonus for commercial films, and selective support, for films that have artistic ambitions but are not equipped to face the market… French This is how cinema has worked for 75 years, and it is a system that is envied around the world.

“They are trying to insert criteria such as tenancy, performance and results into the election support process which is completely destabilizing our system. I think the priority should be to maintain the uniqueness of films and that Don’t act like all movies are the same.

Wrapping up the four-hour meeting, Arthur Harari, director of the critically acclaimed Cannes 2021 Uncertainty Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle.said that the next step was to involve the CNC in the États Généraux process.

“The ball is now in CNC’s court. This is the organization we need to demand, listens to us, not Bursi. [the Ministry of Finance] Or the Ministry of Culture. This is our home, our ship,” he said.

“If they refuse to accept us, it is a paradoxical situation. It is our watchdog that is refusing to listen to us. We have to take matters into our own hands. This is a question of politics and democracy. If the concept of Etats Généraux is not monitored by the organization as it should be, then it will be time for rebellion.

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