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In a move that has sent shockwaves through the French film industry, Fréderique Bredin, long-running head of the powerful French National Cinema Centre (CNC) has abruptly resigned from her post, amid government attempts to overhaul the film financing body.
Bredin resigned Wednesday night shortly after the government of French President Emmanuel Macron failed to confirm whether she would be reappointed for another three-year term when her current mandate runs out at the end of this week. Bredin has been at loggerheads with the government over proposed reforms that would cap the CNC’s budget and restrict the group’s autonomy over how it raises and spends its money.
Established 70 years ago, the CNC is the financial foundation of the French film industry. With an annual budget of around $915 million (813 million euros), the group subsidies the production, distribution and marketing of French films at home and abroad. The money comes mainly from a 10.7 percent levy on cinema ticket sales in France, as well as 5.6 percent taxes on the turnover of free-to-air broadcasters and a 2 percent levy on the French revenue of digital platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. The group’s actual budget varies according to overall cinema ticket revenue as well as the revenue of its industry contributors.
The French system is the envy of Europe and French cinema is among the most successful among local-language offerings in attracting local audiences. French movies regularly account for 40 percent or more of the local box office.
But in a report presented to the French parliament last month, two members of Macron’s ruling centrist party have proposed overhauling the system. The report calls for the CNC’s budget to be capped, regardless of the tax money raised, and that CNC revenue be used to finance TV production rather than just films. The proposals would also see collection of the cinema ticket tax pass from the CNC to the French Finance Ministry, meaning the CNC would no longer have control of its own purse strings. Critics of the CNC have said the body bankrolls too many movies, most of which fail to attract a significant theatrical audience.
The reforms sparked an uproar within the industry, with some 800 French film professionals signing an open letter opposing the overhaul. It argues that the diversity of French cinema is the reason for its success.
“French films account for 40 percent [of the box office] and it’s rising,” the letter says. “This market share is exceptional and is directly linked to the richness of the offer. Suppressing these so-called ‘excessive’ films would put this market share, which is the envy of Europe, in danger. The collective health [of the film industry] is at stake.”
The letter also points out the French film industry contributes some $6.3 billion (5.8 billion euros) to the French economy and employs some 127,000 people, compared with the French car industry, which employs around 200,000.
Bredin was fiercely opposed to the reforms, saying they would lead to the destruction of the CNC and France’s film industry as a whole.
The French financing system is based on the idea that any company that benefits from exploiting cinema content — from a theater to a streaming platform — should reinvest some of its profits in the creation of new French and European movies. Around 90 percent of all French films benefit from some form of CNC funding. CNC programs subsidize every aspect of the industry, from development and production through distribution and exhibition. European co-productions, TV drama, online-only programing and video games also receive funding from the CNC.
It is not yet clear who will succeed Bredin as CNC president.
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