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France’s Hard-Hit Film Sector to Get $106 Million Rescue Plan Amid Vaccine Pass Controversy

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French film exhibitors, producers and distributors will benefit from a €90 million ($106 million) rescue plan from the National Film Board (CNC) to compensate for revenue loss caused by the six-month shutdown of theaters.

The scheme that was approved Thursday had been pushed by film guilds since May, when theaters reopened with an audience capacity limited at 65% and a 9 p.m. curfew, after being closed down since Oct. 30.

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The country’s film sector is now grappling with strict July 21 requirement that patrons show a EU Digital Covid Certificate — commonly called a “health pass” — with proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test in order to access cultural venues including movie theaters. Since Macron’s announcement of this new bill on July 12, the vaccine rollout has accelerated at an unprecedented pace, but as of July 25, only 49.3% of the population in France is fully vaccinated, according to the Agence France-Presse.

As France is facing a fourth wave of infections due to the spread of the Delta variant, the country passed a bill on Sunday to obligate bars, restaurants, gyms and other indoor venues to require patrons to show the health pass starting in early August until Nov. 15.

The French box office, which had recovered to pre-pandemic levels with theaters allowed to open at maximum capacity since July 1, has seen admissions drop by 70% to 80% on some movies such as “F9,” the latest instalment of Universal’s franchise with Vin Diesel, since the new health pass measures kicked in. A string of Cannes titles are also struggling in theaters, including the Palme d’Or winning movie “Titane” by Julia Ducournau, Leos Carax’s “Annette” and Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta,” which saw admissions drops of 27%, 51% and 62% during the first five days of the new restriction.

Several high-profile film releases, including Pathe’s “Eiffel,” are now hanging in the balance as distributors are considering postponing them to the fall. Gaumont previously said it was looking to stick with the Aug. 4 release of “OSS 117: From Africa With Love” which closed the Cannes Film Festival. Final decisions will be made early next week. Distributors had scheduled their films for the summer to take advantage of the post-Cannes buzz and avoid the clutter of releases scheduled in the fall.

Under the CNC scheme, exhibitors will receive 59.3 million euros, which will cover rent and also fixed charges for the large cinema circuits, while smaller cinemas will receive a bonus. Producers, meanwhile, will receive 16.7 million euros and will also get a 25% bonus on existing subsidies if they release their film in theaters before spring 2022. Some additional subsidies will also be given to companies that produced at least one film whose making or distribution has been disrupted by the pandemic and caused extra costs.

Distributors will also receive 14 million euros from the CNC through a bonus on existing subsidies for movies that are released by spring 2022 and a fund for the most vulnerable companies.

Still, local film guilds are calling for the CNC to set up an additional rescue plan to help them cope with the losses caused by the government’s new vaccine rules and are pointing out to the fact that these rules were enforced in cultural venues less than 10 days after being announced, which didn’t leave people enough time to be fully vaccinated. Vaccinated individuals can receive the health pass one week after their second shot, making it a month between getting the first shot and receiving the pass. Film guilds have also argued that restaurants and bars were given three more weeks before being obligated to enforce the new restrictions.

The country has been torn over the health pass legislation with large protests staged across the nation, bringing together people who are comparing Macron’s government to a dictatorship. Marchers include anti-vaxxers, as well as right-wing politicians and protestors from the Yellow Jacket movement. Over 160,000 people demonstrated across France over the weekend, and some more protests are being staged this weekend.

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