French media timeline: Culture minister appears to suggest windows be reduced – ‘There are arguments for a more respectful balance’

FranceMinister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak appeared to suggest in a radio interview on Wednesday that a further relaxation of the country’s strict rules media timeline rules could be on the cards for global platforms.

“We have already reduced it. Previously, it was 36 months,” she said in an interview on the RTL network, in response to a question about the current legal window of 15 to 17 months in France between the theatrical release of a feature film and its streaming availability.

“The platform landscape continues to develop, with the arrival of HBO Max and others. We see that there is a risk that cinemas in France will not be able to release films, the big American blockbusters, as we saw it with disney, with one of their films. A more respectful balance needs to be found.

Abdul Malak suggested that the platforms had the right to push for changes given that they are now obliged to invest at least 20% of their French income in European audiovisual content and feature films, most of which must be in French language and produced by independent producers, following the introduction of the so-called SMAD decree last year.

“In return, it’s legitimate that they asked for their broadcast windows to be shortened,” she said.

However, when asked about the possibility of shortening the window to less than 15 months in the near future, Abdul Malak said that this could only happen if an agreement was reached collectively with all players in the French film and television industry, across the production, distribution and exhibition chain.

His comments come amid Disney’s lobbying for a reduction in the 17-month window currently in place for its Disney+ Platform.

The company announced in June that it was jump the theatrical release of strange world in France to put it directly on Disney Plus, following the rules of chronology. The film is set to hit theaters in the United States and much of the rest of the world on November 23.

Rumors were swirling in October that he was also considering a straight-to-digital release in France for Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The studio released a statement claiming that it would maintain the theatrical release on November 9, following “the French government’s recognition that the media chronology needs to be modernized”.

France introduced radically revised media chronology rules earlier this year, after nearly a decade of tough negotiations between all major stakeholders in France.

Under the new framework, most global platforms, including Disney and Amazon, are subject to a 17-month gap between a feature film’s theatrical and online release, while netflix negotiated a 15-month window in exchange for additional investment in local feature films. Before the new rules, the window was 36 months.

The new media chronology legislation was to last for three years from its official launch in February 2022. However, it included an annual review clause set for February 2023.

Platforms are hoping this means there is some wiggle room to adjust the window further.

Hot topic for local industry

There is already fierce debate in the industry about whether the new chronology laws need to be changed so soon after their introduction.

Some industry stakeholders believe that the legislation should not be changed during the three-year term, while other professionals agree that it already needs to be updated.

It was a hot topic on Monday during the opening debate of the annual film industry conference of the directors guild L’ARP, which takes place from November 2-4 in the northern French seaside resort of Le Touquet.

The event comes at a difficult time for the French film industry this year as the local box office struggles to recover to pre-pandemic levels, although encouraging results from October in which admissions doubled by from September levels to reach 14 million admissions, saw it kick off amid an air of cautious optimism.

Dominique Boutonnat, director of the National Center for French Cinema (CNC), who oversaw final negotiations for the new timeline rules, underscored the collective nature of the work needed to reach the agreement.

“The media chronology agreement is cross-industry and will remain so. It is not a dictate from the state and it never will be,” he said.

“Why was it created? First to protect the cinema, then, gradually and fortunately, to make the most of all the different windows of exploitation so that they best serve the financing of French and European creation.

Boutonnat, however, stressed that some “small adjustments” were still necessary in relation to “the problem between French broadcasters and American platforms”, on the window of films financed outside France and belonging to non-European companies.

“We are here to protect broadcasters, but we are also here to protect the ability of French citizens to have access to all films,” he said.

“The annual review clause, put in place when the agreement was signed, is fundamental. We can no longer wait three, four, five years to update the laws around the chronology, ”he continued.

“I’m not saying we’re going to drastically change the deal by next January, but it’s living law. We can all see that the situation is changing rapidly and that small changes are necessary. The goal is to regularly sit around the table to make these adjustments.

In a comment from the room, Franco-Romanian director and vice-president of the ARP Radu Mihăileanu, who played an active role in the negotiations on the chronology, said that he believed that the current framework should remain unchanged for at least one year before being modified.

“The media timeline guarantees our complete independence for the way it fragments [the sources] of financing. It is essential and that is why we have fought so hard for it not to be deregulated, and for the ‘toy’ not to be broken by some who would like to destabilize it,” he said.

“It took us two, three years to negotiate this timeline. If there is a renewal clause that gives rise to three years of negotiations each year, we will never have a chronology. Let it sit for a bit to see what comes out of it and then we can think again,” he added.

“Of course, nothing prevents us from thinking about it now but let’s not reopen it and put it back on the table now. Everything has been said and it would destabilize the historical partners, which we absolutely do not want to do at this time. of crisis.

Helen D. Jessen