France’s culture minister has passed a decree allowing the National Film Board (CNC) to tweak the country’s notoriously strict window release policy as the industry struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown.
Under the exceptional measures, films that came out last week and were in theaters as of March 14 — when cinemas were ordered to close — will be allowed to go straight to VOD. However, the CNC has said clearly that the policy change is temporary.
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The usual windowing system in France doesn’t permit films to be released straight to VOD if they have been financed by French TV channels, and sets transactional VOD windows at four months. The subscription-based window, meanwhile, is set at 36 months for global platforms such as Netflix.
The decree initially triggered protests from the French exhibitors associations but has now garnered support from the body, as well as other industry guilds. One of the reasons behind the decree is to avoid a clutter release schedule across theaters down the line. Dozens of films have already been rescheduled to the fall.
The exhibitors’ org said it is working with distributors and the CNC to plan the reopening of theaters and will ask all cinema owners to support films that were in theaters as of March 14.
One of these movies is Martin Provost’s “La Bonne Epouse” with Juliette Binoche which was released by Memento Films International on March 11, ahead of the shutdown. Memento founder Alexandre Mallet-Guy has said he wanted the movie to have a career in theaters once they reopen, rather than go straight to VOD.
France has been in a lockdown mode for six days, with theaters, schools, shops and restaurants shut down.
The restrictions were set for two weeks but will likely be extended for several more weeks. Boasting more than 2,000 screens, France represents Europe’s biggest theatrical market in terms of admissions. Last year, the country broke a 50-year record with 213 million admissions sold.
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