Cannes opens as Euro film production hits new highs

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As Cannes prepares to host Europe’s most prestigious film festival for the 62nd time, a survey released yesterday (11 May) found that a record number of films were produced in the EU last year and admissions to European films remained strong.

A total of 17 films, which received over €3 million of co-financing from the EU’s Media Mundus programme, will be shown at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious event in the European film calendar (13-24 May). Indeed, ten of the twenty films selected for prizes in 2009 received EU funding. 

Speaking ahead of the festival, EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said Europe should make sure that more European films are shown in mainstream cinemas in third countries, rather than during specialist European film festivals abroad. 

“It’s all very well for European films to win Oscars, but that’s not enough,” she said. “We should aim to ensure that they are widely distributed via commercial media.” 

Record number of European productions 

A record 1,145 feature films – including feature-length documentaries – were produced in the EU in 2008, a market share of 28.4% of European cinema admissions, according to a survey on world market trends in film production compiled by the European Audiovisual Observatory. 

Cinema attendance across the bloc as a whole increased by 0.5%, reaching 924 million admissions last year, while ABBA-based musical Mamma Mia! and James Bond film Quantum of Solace were the most popular films of 2008, the research found. 

112 more films were produced in the EU last year than in 2007, the EAO found. Indeed, “European productions levels for entirely national and majority co-productions have increased by 10.8% year-on-year and by an annual average of 7.1% since 2004”. 

The high popularity of national films in their own countries’ markets is largely responsible for maintaining such a high European market share. French films led in this regard, with a local market share of 45.4%. 

EU funding boost 

Meanwhile, the EU last week (7 May) adopted a €15m funding package to boost the worldwide competitiveness of the European audiovisual industry and foster collaboration with third countries. 

MEPs approved by large majority (484 votes in favour and 16 against amid 25 abstentions) the funding package for the next phase of the EU’s Media Mundus programme in support of European film, approving a report drafted by German EPP-ED member Ruth Hieronymi. 

The programme for 2011-2013 will strengthen international professional collaboration and information exchange by funding training and scholarships, with the aim of “making networking between European and third-country audiovisual professionals easier”. 

Media Mundus is designed to “improve access to foreign markets and build trust and long-term commercial relationships” and “improve the competitiveness and transnational distribution of audiovisual works worldwide by making international co-productions easier”. 

It also seeks to: 

  • Improve circulation and exposure of audiovisual works worldwide and increase public demand, especially among young audiences, for culturally diverse audiovisual content. 
  • Contribute to joint EU-third country co-productions by facilitating access to commercial financing. 
  • Improve transnational film distribution through financial support for printing, subtitling and advertising. 
  • Fund training on using new technologies, like Web TV. 

On 15 May, the European Commission will host an information day on the Media programme for cinema professionals in Cannes. 

Speaking before last week's vote, German centre-right MEP Ruth Hieronymi (EPP-ED), the European Parliament's rapporteur on the Media Mundus scheme, said: "Cultural works should not just be treated as commercial goods: they are a vector of a common European identity. Media Mundus responds to the need to support our film industry as a motor of intercultural dialogue in a time of globalisation of markets and new technologies." 

"Media Mundus helps to give Europe a face and projects the idea of a European dream. The American dream has been projected for decades through film. It is time for us Europeans to do the same," said German MEP Doris Pack, also of the EPP-ED group. 

Austrian Socialist MEP Christa Prets hailed Slumdog Millionaire as "proof that filmmakers from around the world can work successfully across borders," adding that "the Media Mundus funding programmes will allow professionals to keep up-to-date with the technological changes that are so radically affecting the industry". 

EU Media Commissioner Viviane Reding said Media Mundus was "about creating business opportunities and jobs, but it is above all about supporting cultural diversity". 

"The international audiovisual landscape has changed significantly over the last two decades, notably through the impact of technological developments like video on demand, Internet TV or multi-channel digital television. This has created growing demand for more audiovisual content, and we need to 'fill' all these new technologies with new and exciting content," said Reding. 

"I think Media Mundus is the right cultural answer to this global technological challenge. The successes of the current Media programme and Media International have shown the need for a sequel: It's time to go global. I expect EU citizens to see the results of our new efforts very quickly in a cinema nearby!," she added. 

The 'Focus 2009: World Film Market Trends' survey, compiled by the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO), was published yesterday (11 May). 

The EU's Media Mundus programme helps to fund the European film industry. The current Media 2007 phase provides EU filmmakers with €755m for the period 2007-2013, and has helped fund award-winning films like Slumdog Millionaire (UK), Gomorra (Italy) and La Vie en Rose (France). 

Last summer, the European Commission announced it was exploring ways of increasing the share of European films in extra-EU markets to counter the dominance of Hollywood (EURACTIV 11/06/08), primarily through the 'Media International' initiative (EURACTIV 27/06/08) approved by MEPs in December. 

A March study published by the EAO had found that American fiction still "overwhelmingly dominates" European television screens, but the European productions are increasing their market share (EURACTIV 26/03/09). 

Separate EAO research published last autumn had found that European co-productions are released in more EU countries and fare better at the box office than their entirely national counterparts (EURACTIV 16/09/08). 

  • 13-24 May: Cannes Film Festival. 
  • 15 May: Commission to host information day on its Media programme for cinema professionals at Cannes. 

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