The CNC divulges cinema distribution costs in relation to French films
- As questions over future cinema releases in France become increasingly pressing in the face of the nebulous, post-Covid landscape, a CNC study sheds clear, statistical light on the situation
The longer the pandemic lingers, the thornier the issue of the huge volume of films yet to be distributed becomes, with over 400 feature films now awaiting release in France. Closed since 30 October 2020 as a precautionary sanitary measure, yesterday saw French cinemas’ chances of re-opening pushed back to mid-May 2021 at the earliest (on condition that the epidemic weakens it grip), with incremental health protocols required (capacity reduced to 35% for the first three weeks, increasing to 50% for the following three weeks). Unsurprisingly then, the colossal backlog which can be expected when movie-theatres re-open, and the high probability that arthouse films and smaller productions will be annihilated in the process, is a source of great concern in all areas of the industry. The authorities have just introduced special dispensation exempting distributors who renounce a cinema release for their films (instead prioritising a direct release on VOD, SVOD or on TV) from reimbursing support funds put forward by the CNC.
Viewed in this light, the CNC-published study on "The costs of distributing French films released in cinemas in 2019" (the last "normal" pre-Covid year enjoyed by the French film market) is all the more pertinent and worthy of analysis. Indeed, it highlights key financial data for distributors - figures which will clearly be taken into account when difficult decisions need to be made (regarding whether or not to renounce cinema releases).
It teaches us, for example, that the average cost of a cinema release stands at €445,000, but that this figure differs considerably according to genre. For a fiction feature film, the bill reaches €521,800 on average, with a marked difference between comedies (€793,200 in release costs) and dramas (average fees of just €299,700). The average cost of distributing a French animated feature film is €423,300, and €104,400 for a documentary. Lastly, it’s worth noting that average release costs for arthouse-classified feature films amount to €247,800; in other words 3.3 times less than for a non-classified film (€820,600).
More broadly, if we combine the cost of producing a French feature film (89.9%) and the cost of distributing it (10.1%), we arrive at a total figure of €4.5m. That said, distribution costs weigh more heavily upon feature films with production budgets below €1m and on those falling within the €4-15m budget bracket. By contrast, distribution costs are less than 10% for films between €1m and €4m, as well as for those above €15m.
Over the past ten years, the average cost of distributing a French film has decreased by 17.4%, mainly due to a reduction in technical fees (manufacturing of DCPs and KDMs, VPFs which are reaching the end of their lifecycle, etc.) which accounted for 12.6% of release costs in 2019. By contrast, costs relating to the purchasing of advertising space continue to rise (57.9% of distribution costs in 2019, compared to 43.9% in 2010). And whilst poster advertising remains the preferred medium for film promotion (accounting for 37.5% of advertising space purchases), promotion within cinemas (33.1% of spending, +81.9% since 2010) and online (17.8% of advertising purchases in 2019, +145.1 % in 10 years) is on the rise. For the record, the advertising of films on TV has been authorised in France on an experimental basis since August 2020 and for a period of 18 months, which will likely change the future structure of expenditure relating to advertising space.
The percentage of distribution expenses linked to the design of advertising material (creation of film posters and trailers, photos, etc.) remains relatively stable (10.7%), while the various costs relating to all things promotional (press, premières, tours, etc.) have risen over time to 18.8%.
Worth a final mention is the fact that 48 distribution firms released 183 French films in 2019, although a slight monopoly seems to be at play, given that just five of these firms account for an impressive 57.7% of total release costs (Pathé Films with 18.5%, Gaumont at 12.5%, UGC Distribution with 11.1%, SND at 8.4% and Apollo Films at 7.3%), snaffling 70.3% of the market share (thanks to titles such as The Wolf’s Call [+see also:
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interview: Liza Benguigui
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(Translated from French)
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