Even though the largest global box office markets are North America and China, France may be the country where movies are most intertwined with the national cultural identity. France is Europe’s largest film market, in part because of government programs to support France’s domestic film industry.
One such program requires all national TV broadcasters to set aside a percentage of their revenue to fund French-based film production. In addition, studios are obligated to reserve a 15-to-17-month exclusive window for films to play in theatres before they can be streamed online. Despite this unmatched support, cinema attendance is down significantly – 28% – from the levels of 2019.
Many consider the current period as an existential crisis for France’s film industry, with leaders coming together at a hastily organized conference last Thursday to discuss the problems and possible solutions. Participants dished out blame in all directions. Studios complained that the unreasonably long theatrical windows that exhibitors insist on the limit the profit potential for new films and, therefore, have a chilling effect on production.
Exhibitors pointed to content as the biggest challenge, with local French studios producing a steady stream of “mediocre” films and Hollywood distributing fewer global blockbusters in the market. One recent example of this is Disney’s recently announced decision to pull the release of STRANGE WORLD from theatres in France, in favor of an exclusive launch on Disney+. This shows the limited control French officials can exert in support of local exhibitors.