The export of French theatrical titles and series (title volume and economic value)

by Emilio Pucci | 06.03.2023

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Films & Series: Total Export Flux France vs Italy

In 2021, France produced 340 films for the cinema. The number of titles is finally above 300 again, after plunging to 237 in 2020 due to the pandemic. Of the 340 films produced in 2021, 75 are co-productions with a French minority. Of the remaining 265, some are entirely French (197) while 68 are internationally co-produced films with France holding the majority stake.

Based on data recently published by CNC (Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée), the overall contribution of foreign entities to French films produced in 2021 is worth approximately €243 million, but only €52 million are related to films where foreign players have minority shares, meaning that the project is French. It should be noted that CNC does not provide information or data on films with equal shares (50% French and 50% foreign players).

In 2021, the overall foreign sales of theatrical French features were worth €137 million. Adding the two values (sales and contributions to co-productions) the total is €189 million. This is the final value of the total export flux, i.e. the aggregate value of all foreign resources related to feature films for French theatrical projects (contributions from co-producers, pre-sales, and sales). Naturally, a part of these is generated by “catalogue” films. According to CNC’s methodology, films de catalogue have been produced for more than three years, i.e. as opposed to films récents. The former weigh on foreign sales in a variable percentage year by year, for example: 29% in 2021, 32% in 2019 but only 18% in 2017.

On the television production side, CNC provides an even more detailed picture of the total export flux for different kinds of programs. Adding up the foreign resources (contributions from co-producers, pre-sales, and sales) for fiction, documentary and animation genres, the overall figure for 2021 was worth €343 million. This value added to the theatrical with French majority (€289 million) leads to a cumulative total export flux of all library genres of €532 million.

The following graph shows the entire 2017-2021 data series also in relation to the total value of production for the same years.

France: the total export flux incidence on the overall cost of library productions (theatrical titles, series, and TV movies) in fiction, animation and documentary genres.

Source: eMedia on CNC data

The values reported by CNC relating to audiovisual productions do not take into account the investments made in France by global VoD services such as Netflix and Amazon, let alone the value of the foreign rights implied in these investments.

As said, the total export flux can be divided into a few sectors (contributions from co-producers, pre-sales and sales of foreign rights). While the contribution of co-producers and pre-sales support the production budget, meaning they are foreign resources attracted in the production phases, the foreign rights sales concern the revenues alone.

The following graph shows this breakdown with reference to the cumulative values of theatrical products and television titles.

France: composition of the total export flux for library titles (theatrical titles, series and TV movies) in the fiction, animation and documentary genres (values in € million)

Source: eMedia on CNC data

The picture hereby outlined in an extremely concise manner allows us to make a comparison between the export of Italian and French titles, albeit with extreme caution.

As for Italian films produced in the same years, two recent research conducted by eMedia for ANICA (“ITALIAN FILMS ON FOREIGN MARKETS – Circulation, economic value, and market trends, October 2022) and APA (“ECONOMIC VALUE AND CIRCULATION OF FILMS E SERIES FOR ITALIAN TV AND VOD ON FOREIGN MARKETS”, October 2022) presented a first estimate of the total flux of Italian exports. In 2021, its value lied between €160-190 million for both theatrical and series, a sharp increase from 2017 when it was around €60-70 million. These are still provisional estimates, which, if confirmed, would bring the incidence of our total domestic export flux to around 16-19%, though including an estimated percentage related to global VoD operators.

These data are purely indicative because the methodological criteria and the perimeters considered are different but perhaps they can be useful for producing a very first assessment of the value of Italian exports which in any case registers strong growth.

The estimate of 16% or 19% as a share of the total export flux on the overall production value is certainly a positive figure but we must not forget that in France the total production value of theatrical titles and series in absolute terms is around €3 billion, meaning 3 times the Italian value.