Effective Jan. 1, the Centre National du Cinéma, the government agency that funds film production, will shun films in which the pay to the star actors exceeds a certain percentage of production costs. The limit varies depending on the budget; it is set at 5% for films costing between €8 million and €10 million.
“Public money isn’t meant to pay salaries exceeding that sort of amount,” CNC spokeswoman Françoise Pamps said.
In recent years, rising pay for top French actors such as Mr. Dujardin, who won an Oscar in 2012 for his performance in “The Artist,” has claimed a bigger portion of movie budgets in France, forcing producers to rein in other spending. The trend has sparked controversy in France, where, excluding state financial support, the industry loses money, according to data from the CNC.
The attempt to cap the pay for the likes of Mr. Dujardin, Gérard Depardieu, and Marion Cotillard points up how the government’s system to protect France’s film industry from world competition is becoming less sustainable as the domestic economy stagnates.
The cherished French model insulates the country’s film producers from market pressure through a complicated cross-subsidy managed by the CNC. The aid is generated by a levy on each movie ticket sold in the country, as well as payments imposed on TV channels and DVD sales.
In trade negotiations, the film subsidy has been targeted by the U.S. and other countries as an unfair market intervention, but France has stuck to its guns. During recent talks for a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union, the French government insisted, successfully, on keeping culture off the table.
According to an annual ranking compiled by Le Figaro newspaper, the best-paid French actors—mainly popular local comics little known abroad like Dany Boon —charged in excess of €1.5 million ($1.85 million) per movie in 2013. Mr. Boon’s agent didn’t answer emails seeking comments.
Preposterous Film Setup
The entire process is preposterous from start to finish. France should get out of the movie-making business altogether. Instead it pays subsidies to films that the free market would never create, then to pay for that boondoggle it charges a tax on every ticket, every DVD, and every TV station.
With all that graft, it’s no wonder some actors are overpaid.
Yet, it’s highly likely that some are actually underpaid. The problem is government would have absolutely no way of knowing. With all the subsidies and taxes, it’s impossible to know who is overpaid and who isn’t.
What we do know is that dozens of bad films are subsidized in the name of “preserving culture”. It’s the same setup in France’s agricultural industry, and everywhere else one looks as well.
For example, please consider Sunday shopping rules.
France Seeks to Liberalize Sunday Shopping
The French government wants shops to open on more Sundays, according to a proposed reform to be unveiled this week, but the measure is running into opposition.
In a country where stores are currently subject to tight restrictions on opening hours, the move is seen as a spur to much-needed consumption in an economy badly in need of a boost.
Town halls would be allowed to grant trading licences on 12 Sundays a year, compared to the current five Sundays annually. In addition, local officials would be obliged to grant five Sundays a year whereas currently they can decide to grant none.
But the measure has run into opposition in France where, unlike in many of its European rivals, the idea of Sunday as a day of rest still attracts considerable support.
Opposition to the Sunday opening comes from all points of the political spectrum, as well as from the Catholic and union lobbies.
An opinion poll published on Friday showed that 62 percent of respondents were in favour of shops opening on Sundays, although 60 percent said they would be reluctant to work on that day.
Sunday Shopping “Reform” French Style
- Towns halls could approve shopping on 12 Sundays up from the current 5
- Local officials would be obliged to offer 5 Sunday shopping days
This is so controversial, debate is at the highest levels. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said “Paris in particular was at risk of seeing visitors go elsewhere to spend unless retail laws were loosened.” Nonetheless, Valls noted “there will be a debate” about the proposal.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock