Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Top French Film Exports by Joann So


Betrand Tavernier on set

Film
is especially seen as a medium of art and culture in France. The French view a film as a story purposefully presented by the director rather than time-killing entertainment. French director Bertrand Tavernier spoke to Stanford students and said: “Films are massive constructive weapons” (Le Figaro, 21/11/2005). Not only is film a source of visual appeal but also a means of presenting a message. Though it refers to ticket sales and amassed revenue, the French generally do not see film as a source of mere profit or a shallow form of entertainment. Rather, film is supported and even subsidized at times by the government as a way of sustaining and promoting French culture. France is working hard to stay French while competing in a global market with strong influences such as Hollywood. Unfortunately, most of film revenues come from French film rights sold to various countries for adaptation (eg. Trois Hommes et Un Couffin remade into Three Men and a Baby in the US). Also, the market buying French films expect a certain kind of French film, one that somehow always seems to feed a stereotype about the French.


France tries to leave culture outside the hegemony of the market. Their phrase ‘l’exception culturelle française’ is the idea that everything cultural must be protected (even by the State) and that they are not just products (understandfrance.org). Because cultural products are not just products, they cannot be subject to regulations that are applied to them. Additionally, because the French do not want their culture to be replaced by a foreign one (namely American), it is legitimate of the state to protect filmmaking and other cultural activities from pure market laws. Film is an art and holds innumerable value and we can see this in the following example. In January of 2007, over 3,000 writers, artists, and curators signed a petition protesting a new policy developed by French museums such as the Louvre and Pompidou attempting to raise money by renting various works of art. Not to generalize the American approach to film as being purely commercial but French films generally come from a bed of different values and perspectives.

Most successful French films outside France, Most successful French films in France


Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain (22.2 mil), Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis (20 mil)

Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar (15.3 mil), La Grande Vadrouille (17 mil)

Le Pacte des Loups (7.4 mil), Asterix et Obelix: Mission Cléopatre (15 mil)

La Double Vie de Véronique (6.9 mil), Les Visiteurs

Les Rivières Pourpres (6.4 mil), Le Corniaud (9 mil)

Delicatessen (5.5 mil), Taxi 2 (11 mil)

Taxi 2 (5 mil), Trois Hommes et Un Couffin (adapted as Three Men and a Baby in the US)

Le Pueple Migrateur (4.8 mil), Les Misérables

Huit Femmes (4.4 mil), La Guerre des Boutons

Le Placard (4.2 mil), L’Ours

Les Chorites (4 mil), Le Grand Bleu

Taxi 3 (3.9 mil), Asterix et Obelix contre Cesar

Emmanuelle (9 mil)

Les Riviéres Pourpres 2 (3.8 mil), Le Dîner de Cons

Un Long Dimanche de Fiançailles (3.7 mil), Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain


In an interview, Jérôme Clément, president of ARTE spoke of cultural importance and state influence. “Culture is not a beauty contest. You must not evaluate the cultural level of a country by conducting the number of writers Mr. Average on the other end of the planet can name or the Top 50 of the best world sales. If ARTE exists and contributes to the influence of French culture worldwide, it is thanks to the action of the State” (Le Monde, 16/12/2008). Notice how he views culture and gives credit to the state. Film production and state support is closely integrated.

(image credit: vibewsu.wordpress.com, justinsomnia.org)

In a comparison of the success of French films at home and abroad done by the Nouvel Observateur, the most successful film outside France is Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain drawing in 22 million viewers. However, Amélie is not even in the Top 10 in France but we see unknown films such as Bienvenue Chez Les Ch’tis that held an audience of 20 million in France. Recently, two big French exports were Taken and Transporter 3, which increased the revenue in 2008 by 7.5%. The 2008 revenue went up to €141.3 million (from the year before which yielded €131.4 million). Commonalities in these two films are that they are products of multi-country contracts and are English productions of French majority films. Taken sold 22.9 million tickets in 2009 while Transporter 3 sold 8 million. Anne Fontaine’s biopic of French fashion designer with Audrey Tautou came in third with Coco Chanel, selling 5.5 million tickets. Welcome to the Sticks surprisingly came in fourth, lagging a little behind with 1.9 million tickets. Although admission to French film declined in 2009 from 2008, 2009 also boasted the highest number of releases of the decade. Note that 2008 was a particularly successful year because of films such as Babylon AD, Astérix at the Olympic Games, Taken, and Transporter 3. (Note the important film agency in France called Films Distribution).

Revenue (in millions of €) Market Share (%) Change
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 08/07
French films* 141.2 153.2 170.3 131.4 141.3 63.2 63.9 68.4 67.7 74.5 +7.5%
Foreign films 82.1 86.4 78.6 62.7 48.3 36.8 36.1 31.1 32.3 25.5 -23.3%
Total 223.4 239.5 249.0 194.1 189.6 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 -2.3%
Export revenue based on film country of origin (*Including French majority and minority co-productions)

The top fifteen countries in terms of French film export revenue in 2008 (*Transfer agreement with an American distributor who is then responsible for broadcasting the work in the Americas and in other countries)
Revenue (in million €) Market Share (%)
Germany &/or German-speaking zones 17.6 12.4
Japan 7.0 5.0
Russia 9.7 6.9
Spain 5.3 3.7
Italy 7.2 5.1
US + various areas* 12.3 8.7
Central & Eastern European contracts 5.0 3.5
UK &/or Ireland 7.5 5.3
Belgium 8.6 6.1
Scandinavia 4.3 3.0
US &/or Anglophone Canada 13.7 9.7
Quebec &/or Canada 2.8 2.2
Greece 3.1 2.2
Switzerland (non-German speaking areas) 3.8 2.7
Benelux 3.3 2.4
Total top fifteen 111.3 78.7
Total 141.3 100.0

“Market trends seen in previous years were again confirmed in 2008 with purchasers showing increased demand for films filmed in English” (CNC study 6, 2009). France has organizations such as Unifrance which seeks to promote French cinema worldwide and CNC (Centre National du Cinéma). These are agencies that publish and study film exports in France. This is a continuation of the pattern that was noticed in the same pamphlet published one year before with experts mentioning how ”international buyers are still selective and now concentrate on a smaller number of films that have original storylines, recognizable casts, and that are generally filmed in English. This was the vast majority of French film export companies earn most of their revenues from selling rights to French films” (CNC study 5, 2008). Unfortunately, many of top film exports out of France are not spoken in French. The demand for them is in English and caters to a much more Hollywood taste than actual French movies are themselves. Instead of a cultural exchange, perhaps it is more of a thin coating of something French on chiefly Hollywood films catering to an audience that is not used to French cinema. However, it seems that these English productions are very popular; according to Unifrance, revenue from French cinema shown in foreign theatres was at its crux in 2008 at a total of 84.2 million tickets sold (+25.1%) totaling €421.5 million in sales (+27.0%). This is also the year that many films mentioned earlier were released. Within the global market, Europe itself is the biggest consumer of French film with Germany now being the biggest buyer. Most French film exporters make most of the revenue by “selling international rights to French films. In 2008, 74.5% of international revenues came from the export of French films. In 2007, this was equal to 67.7%. For 8 out of 21 exporters in 2008, revenue from these sales was worth more than 90% of their total revenue” (CNC study 9, 2009). The fact that over 70% of profit comes from international rights to films shows that French films are much more popular when it is tied to various productions with other countries.

A general overview of film exports attests to the wide success of French film and it is interesting to see which films are favored depending on the audience. French film is definitely a medium that is the work of filmmakers to nurture French culture but also seems to be adjusted to viewer’s tastes in outer markets. Unfortunately, it seems that most popular French film exports are not fully French productions.

YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCbDUREBwUg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kodviK1AHdg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foyviMfOaDU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvDFPjx-uBU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLRTtHByPn4

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