Europe 1 with AFP // Photo credit: Myriam Tirler / Hans Lucas / Hans Lucas via AFP 18:56 p.m., September 20, 2023

The Court of Auditors is interested in public support for cinema. In a report unveiled Wednesday, it stresses the importance of this aid that has allowed French cinema to get through the pandemic but also to adapt to the arrival of platforms. But she points out that the AcSB's investment would rarely be profitable.

The Court of Auditors invites itself into the debate on public support for French cinema, deploring the fact that too many films do not find their audience in cinemas. In a report unveiled Wednesday, the highest financial court looks at more than a decade (2011-2022) of management of the National Center for Cinema and Moving Image (CNC), which depends on the Ministry of Culture.

'An in-depth reform of aid'

His report is laudatory for a public institution that handles nearly 700 million euros of annual resources for the sector, to which it has allowed to get through the pandemic and adapt to the arrival of platforms like Netflix.

But one of its recommendations is likely to make noise: the Court of Auditors calls for "an in-depth reform of aid" to the cinema, too numerous - a hundred - and too complex for its taste. Enough to revive the debate barely six months after the intense controversy launched by the words of the director Justine Triet, receiving her Palme d'Or at Cannes for "Anatomy of a fall".

She had taken the public authorities to task, accused of wanting to "break" the cultural exception and sacrifice aid to young authors on the altar of profitability. "Ungrateful and unfair," Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak replied before the political world seized the subject.

>> READ ALSO – Political editorial of the weekend: The film "Anatomy of a fall" by Justine Triet

Only 2% of supported films make a return in cinemas

The Court of Auditors' diagnosis is intended to be nuanced. "We are not advocating that there be fewer films, but to ensure that there are fewer films that do not meet their audience," the first president of the Court of Auditors, Pierre Moscovici, told reporters. The Court is careful to recall that the CNC remains the guarantor of "the French model, known as cultural exception, combining independent production and creativity". It is this model "that has allowed the maintenance of a market share of French films of nearly 40%," she adds.

But financial magistrates point to the fact that film subsidies continue to swell, while more and more films do not find their audience in cinemas. A third of French films attracted less than 20,000 spectators in 2019, compared to a quarter a decade earlier.

The Court also looks at their profitability. Only 2% of the films supported by the advance on receipts, the most emblematic aid to auteur cinema, are profitable in cinemas, according to the calculations of the Court, which does not take into account their subsequent exploitation. Some authors are frequently supported, such as documentary filmmaker Claire Simon, funded seven times in ten years, Arnaud Despleschin (five times), or Justine Triet (four times), she points out. Tax credits for cinema have jumped (160 million euros in 2022) - which also reflects the boom in filming.

"We are not saying that there are too many films and that profitability should be the only criterion, since the CNC is there so that the cinema can escape this logic of money, but a rationalization for more efficiency is desirable," said Pierre Moscovici.

>> READ ALSO – Cinema: the place of female directors remains a minority but progresses, according to the CNC

Correcting AcSB Endorsements

In its response to the Court of Auditors, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said it "shares the observation of a very high level of films supported" and the "need to reform support". But the president of the CNC, Dominique Boutonnat, regrets that the Court "analyzes almost exclusively the performance (of this policy) in the light of the success of assisted films in cinemas". In order for films to find their audience, the CNC works on their distribution, image education, support for festivals, aid to cinemas, art house in particular...

Matignon abounds, stressing that it is necessary to take into account "the renewal of creation, the diversity of films offered to the public and the influence of our cinema internationally", so many facets "which, in this case, prove positive". It will be necessary to "correct the support of the CNC whose effectiveness does not appear convincing", adds Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, "so that French film production is seen by as wide an audience as possible".