Steven Spielberg, Harvey Weinstein Side with France in Free Trade Talks

"Blue is the Warmest Color"

Hollywood heavyweights join auteurs like Michel Hazanavicius and Michael Haneke in keeping incentives off the table as talks between the U.S. and Europe are set to begin July 8.

This story first appeared in the July 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Those who like to view France as a cultural bastion against the crass commercialization of Hollywood have reason to cheer.

An effort by French and European filmmakers, including Oscar winners Michel Hazanavicius, Pedro Almodovar and Michael Haneke, has succeeded in keeping Europe's heavily subsidized film and TV industries off the table in free-trade talks between the U.S. and Europe, set to start July 8 in Washington.

PHOTOS: The Stars Come Out for the French Open

While Hollywood sees French subsidies and cultural quotas as an obstacle when it comes to competing in that market, such vocal advocates as Steven Spielberg and Harvey Weinstein, in solidarity with fellow filmmakers abroad, have supported the French position. Without those subsidies -- about $1.3 billion a year in France alone -- supporters say art house films such as Amour or this year's Cannes Palme d'Or winner, Blue Is the Warmest Color, would be impossible to make. 

But Europe's true trade battle is about cyberspace, not celluloid. Europeans increasingly are watching films and TV online, served up by the likes of Google, Apple or Amazon and other digital operators. And because of that, France wants a new tax on smartphones and tablets to help fund French movies.