Julia Ducorn’s “Titan” and Audrey Diwan’s “Happening” are a milestone year in French cinema, winning the Cannes Palme d’Or and the Golden Lion of Venice, respectively. But far from the awards spotlight, the country’s film and TV groups are at odds with streaming services over how to reform a window schedule that will expire soon.
Studio-backed streaming services, such as Disney and Warnermedia, and the distribution of the film, funded by a controversy related to Canal Plus, are at risk, which is a four-month window to reduce the level of its investment in French cinema.
The National Film Board (CNC) has given French film and TV organizations, as well as streamers, until July 1 to reach an agreement on the new regulations. The initial plan was to set a new release window that would complement the rules established in the local application of the European Union’s Radical Audiovisual Media Services Direct (AVMS), which set local content quotas for streamers across Europe.
There has been a flurry of discussion, however, as free-to-air channels are pushing for a one-month exclusive window on the movies they acquire from banners like Disney. In a real sense, this means that streamers will have to temporarily pull a headline from their platform when the movie airs on French TV.
“Free-to-air channels in France are demanding exclusive windows for the biggest American films and if we don’t want that, broadcasters will permanently lose access to these movies,” the film’s main and international development French public broadcaster on French television. Alduy previously worked at Twentieth Century Fox before and after merging with Disney, and also had a long tenure at the Canal Plus Group as the film’s lead.
“We’re in the third wagon, two years after the drama’s release, behind the Pay TV channel and streamer, and we’re looking for a small window,” Aldui underlined, adding that the idea is to give non-streaming subscribers the opportunity to enjoy these films on public television.
Disney, of course, is not on the same page. Several sources say that the studio is considering releasing live on the streaming platform Disney Plus in order to avoid theatrical releases in France altogether and not fall victim to the local window release schedule.
“This is a worrying situation,” said Ardaban Safai, CEO of Path, France’s leading cinema circuit operator. “If some of the big U.S. films skip theatrical releases in France, it will affect everyone, including the independent French film sector, which benefits the admissions sold for these American blockbusters.”
In fact, the National Film Board of France collects taxes levied on theater admissions to subsidize the local film business, and the sale of U.S. movie tickets for a large portion of that fund.
Elsewhere, French exhibitors are also protesting against U.S. studios releasing the day and date of their films domestically because it facilitates piracy around the world, including in France, where it is “already widespread,” according to Eric Marty of ComScore France. The executive added that U.S. studios were imposing stricter conditions on French audiences (above the number of screens, for example) when releasing their movies.
An industry source close to the talks said the heated talks had eased tensions between the United States and France.
“The maximum window between theaters and SVOD services in the United States is 45 days, and the rest of the world is following the same path because American movies represent 70% to 80% of the box office in most countries; so how can France isolate itself from the rest of the world?”
“France is still the exception because U.S. films represent less than 50% of theater admissions, but we can’t afford to lose Disney movies – it would lose 50 million admissions each year,” the source added.
However, Nathanel Carmitz, CEO of MK2, which operates a major Arthhouse multiplex chain in Paris and Spain, says he prefers to bet in the French way between supporting France’s unique system and threatening to make the American blockbuster disappear from cinema. “This allows for the diversity of our films and the unique position of French audiovisual content in the world,” Carmitz said.
Jocelyn Bausi, managing director of CGR Cinema, France’s second-largest multiplex circuit, is reasonably confident that a deal with Disney and other US studios is not too far away. “We recently saw Disney tracking behind its hybrid strategy; Not only did they realize that they needed drama to generate revenue, they also saw that it wasn’t great for their image and relationship with talent like Scarlett Johansson.
Canal plus complexity
Demands for Canal Plus for a four-month window for films are also being put on hold after the proposed six-month-old theatrical release.
The Pay-TV group opposes movies accessing streaming services 12 months after their movie release because it would overlap their windows, which lasted nine months. Canal Plus argues that these platforms are investing far less than their own contribution, and that it should be set up in 15 months instead of 12 months.
Canal Plus is simultaneously negotiating its multi-year investment agreement with French producers, which expires in 2022. The company is threatening to dramatically reduce its financial commitment if it does not get its convenient window. If its demand is met, it will significantly increase investment.
Aldui of France Television says it is unfortunate that professional organizations have failed to use the pace of the Cannes Film Festival.
“If we do not get a sens reduction at the end of the year, we will end up with an official decree that sets minimum regulations and does not take into account diversity and exclusive standards,” Aldu argued. No, and that’s very close to each other. “
Bouyssy adds: “It’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube situation: one has to find the right combination that suits everyone’s interests. It’s upsetting but not impossible.”