French Culture Minister Talks Media Chronology, $378M Film Industry Capacity Building Drive; Pension Reform Protests & Far Right Fears

UPDATED: France’s controversial 15 to 17-month streaming window for feature films needs to be shortened but this is not likely to happen in the immediate future, French Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak told an international press briefing Saturday at the Cannes Film Festival.

A reduction of the TVOD window could be on the cards, however, so that feature films will be available for the second transactional VOD window, three months after their theatrical release, rather than the current four-month gap.  

Abdul Malak was responding to a question on France’s recently overhauled media windows rules and whether they were due another update amid pressure from the U.S. studios and global platforms, notably Disney and Netflix.

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Under the current chronology, most global platforms including Disney and Amazon are subject to a 17-month gap between a theatrical and online release of a feature film, while Netflix is subject to a 15-month window in return for extra investment in local feature films. Prior to the new rules, the window was 36 months. 

“Yes, I think the whole chronology should be shorter, but we need to go step by step and find the agreement between all the segments [of the film and TV industry] that are concerned,” said Abdul Malak.

RELATED: Cannes Film Festival Full Coverage

“We need to preserve French specificities. Because it’s not only about the films, it’s also about the presence of our theatres in all these territories. It’s about social life. It’s also about financing,” she added.

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

“We decided to open discussions to change it again faster than what was initially planned. We started these discussions in October and we’re still in this process because the government is more of a mediator between all the parties. It has to be an agreement between them. It’s not us who decide what happens,” she said.

A ministerial advisor revealed that a reduction in the TVOD window was under discussion and there was a “very good possibility” that an agreement would be tied up by June.

Adbul Malak is in Cannes this year to talk up the launch of France’s $350 million ‘Grand Fabrique de L’Image’ capacity-building initiative supporting the renovation or creation of 11 studio projects, 12 animation studios, six video game studios and five special effects and post-production outfits as well as 34 training bodies across the country.

“It’s part of our major investment plan called France 2030 and within it, there are two parts. One part is supporting studios and the second part is developing the training schools and new ways of training new talents,” she said.

“It’s both industrial because it’s a huge economic impact for all these areas in France because we know when you shoot the film, one euro in the shooting is worth 7.6 euros in economic impact for the area around hotels, restaurants, jobs and local jobs,” she said.  “But it’s also cultural because it will renew creativity through training.”

Abdul Malak’s presence at the festival comes at a politically tense time for President Emmanuel Macron and his government led by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne as it stands by unpopular pension reforms raising the retirement age from 62 to 64 years old.

Demonstrations have been banned around Cannes’s Palais des Festivals and along the Croisette during the festival but unions are planning a protest outside the jurisdiction of the interdiction on Sunday, while the energy workers union was threatening to cut power at the festival although this has not happened so far.

Quizzed on the pension reforms backlash the government has faced in recent weeks, Abdul Malak acknowledged that a lot of “anger and fears” was being expressed.

She defended the reforms saying they would future-proof France’s social welfare system as the country’s demographic continues to get older and older.

“There’s confusion between different topics. So, if you’re against the pension reform, then you will start to be against everything the government is doing without distinguishing between the topics,” she said.

“This reform is going to help us to fund our social model, all our public services, including education, health, culture, everything,” she continued. “If you look at what age people go to retirement in other countries, you see that in France, we’re still at 62. And we’re not going to 67 or 65 as in other countries.”

Abdul Malak pointed to a lack of “common collective consciousness” in France right now, a trend she said had emerged prior to the pension reforms debate during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“During moments of crisis, you feel that each category wants to defend its own interest,” she said

She suggested that a bigger concern for the unions right now should be rather the rise of far-right movements worldwide.

“If we go back to how Cannes was created, during fascism. We’re now in a moment where in Europe, the far right is rising, really high in France, in the U.S., too,” she said.

“I would love the unions and all their friends to be with us in the fight against the far right,” she said. “I think our common enemy should be the far right and we shouldn’t be threatening a festival with cutting electricity or fragilizing what is our culture way to say no to the far right ideas.”

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