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French production reached pre-pandemic levels by 2023, as mid-budget movies make a comeback

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Source: Cedric Bertrand

Beating Hearts

French film production skyrocketed in 2023 marking a return to pre-pandemic levels as budgets soared, according to an annual report from the CNC, the country’s national film organisation.

A total of 298 films were approved by the CNC last year, driven by French-initiated films which totalled 236, up from 208 in 2022.

There were 18 animated films compared to 13 in 2022; but documentaries dipped from 54 in 2022 to just 40 in 2023.

International co-productions maintained pre-Covid levels with 120 co-productions clocked over the year, in line with the 2017-2019 average of 119 films.

However, just 40.3% of total films were co-productions, down from 50.2% in 2022, but still in line with the pre-pandemic 2017-2019 average of 39.6%. The partner countries were more diverse, with 38 different countries compared to 33 countries in 22 and an overall average of 39 countries during the last decade. Belgium remains France’s top partner for French-initiated co-productions, with 29 films in 2023 followed by Germany with eight films and Italy with seven.

Rising budgets

Total budgets reached EUR1.34 billion in 2023, up 13.6% on 2022 and up 12.9% on the 2017-2019 average, driven predominately by French partners which invested EUR1.1 billion, the third highest level of the decade after 2016 and 2021.

French-initiated films accounted for EUR1.13bn of that investment, up 23.4% year-on-year and up 14.8% compared to the 2017-2019 period. The investment in non-French co-productions, although 3.8% higher than before the pandemic was down 19.8% on the year. This is due to the US strikes which halted production of US films in France.

2023 was a year of a noticeable increase in the number mid-budget movies. The proportion of films with a budget of between EUR1m and EUR4m up to 41.9% the highest level since 2009, and the share of features made for between EUR4m and EUR7m, represented 23.7% of productions, up from 2022’s 15.9% share that was the highest level since 2004.

However, smaller budget films costing less than EUR1m fell to 18.6%, the lowest level since 2009 as the number of high budgeted films doubled on 2023. Eight films with budgets exceeding EUR20m were shot in 2023, compared to only four in 2022. They were: Matthieu Delaporte and Alexandre de La Patelliere’s

The Count of Monte-Cristo, Antonin Baudry’s two-part biopic De Gaulle, Jacques Audiard’s Emilia Perez, and Mehdi Idir and Grand Corps Malade’s Monsieur Aznavour and Audrey Diwan’s Emmanuelle, plus Gilles Lellouche’s Beating Hearts for Studiocanal, and Benjamin Mousquet’s animated Chickenhare 2.However, of the 336 filmmakers who made films in France last year, 71.7% were male directors and 28.3% female, with the latter down slightly from 30.7% in 2022 despite efforts on the part of the CNC and local groups to boost parity.

Financing structures remained stable with producers remaining the leading source of film funding, contributing 38.8% to total feature investment, compared with 39.5% in 2022.

Canal+ is still the leading financier among broadcasters spending EUR154.1m in 2023, with France 2 the leading free-to-air broadcaster with EUR48.3m. Netflix, Disney+ Prime Video and Warner Bros. are among the major streaming services. Discovery Max contributed to financing 39 films in 2023 for a total of EUR48m, more than doubling in one year on 2023’s 17 films and EUR23m in investment.

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