Written by Hilary Barnes
The first agreement putting limits on the export of American films to France was concluded in 1948 at a time when the US film industry was in much better shape than the post-war European industry, a situation which was a fairly general cause of concern in Europe about the dominance of American films and the cultural norms that came with them.
Has the French preference for protective measures worked? By a quirk of history, if one looks at the admissions to French cinemas for 1949 and 2012, you might think so.
In 1949, 42% of admissions were to French films, 44.5% to US films and 23% to European films.
In 2012 admissions to French films were 40.3% of the total, US films 42.7%, European 13.3% and rest of the world 3.7%.
Last year was in fact an unusually good year for French films in France, but there has been no year since 1984 when French films scored more than 50% of admissions, although in the 1960 and 1970s they won over 50% of the admissions about sixty per cent of the time (partly, however, because for those years there are no figures for non-European films, which may screw the statistics slightly).
But another possible interpretation (I am not necessarily endorsing it) of the table above is that the French protective measures have succeeded quite well, but the absence of protective measures in the rest of Europe has proved damaging to the local film industries, which could score around 20% of French admissions in the 1960s and 1970s, but now are more likely to score 10 – 12%.
French commentators on the film industry like to make the latter point above with reference to the fate of the film industry in countries such as the UK and Italy.
On the other hand, foreign films shown in France dominate in the blockbuster sector, here based on 2010 figures.
There were 61 films seen by over one million customers in the cinemas. Seven films in all, of which one French, were seen by over 4m persons, 19 were seen by 2 – 4 m, of which 7 French, and 25 were seen by 1 – 2m customers, of which 11 French.
[The statistics used in this post come from France’s Centre Nationale du Cinèma here.]