French pay-TV giant Canal+ went on the offensive at a special event in Paris on Wednesday, promoting its historic role as the biggest supporter of local and international cinema in France and laying out its past track record and future plans.
The roadshow-style conference was part of an operation laying the ground for the launch of a new high-end, cinema-focused channel Canal+ Box Office which was teased at the end of the event.
“2023 will be the most beautiful year for cinema in the history of Canal+. We’ve never held an event like this before devoted only to cinema, but we felt the need to talk about this,” declared Canal+ Group Chairman and CEO Maxime Saada.
The exec said the banner year was due to three factors, topped by the agreement it signed with the French cinema guilds in early 2022, pledging to invest at least €200M ($213M) annually in cinema over five years.
The accord was forged within the context of France’s overhaul of its strict windowing rules, or media chronology.
In return for its investment, the window between a film’s theatrical release and its availability on Canal+ has been shortened to six months from nine months.
This compares with a 15-month window for Netflix, which has also pledged extra cinema investment, and 17 months for platforms like Disney and Amazon, which have not cut investment obligation deals.
Saada said the smaller window had resulted in an uptick in subscribers and also helped pave the way for new distribution accords with U.S. studios Sony and Universal, which followed in the wake of another recent deal with Paramount.
“It’s the first time since the launch of digital satellite television in France in 1996, that a single French platform has gathered all the U.S. majors – Disney, Fox, Warner, Paramount, Sony, Universal – in one place,” he said.
These deals mean a raft of top-flight studio movies will be available to Canal+ subscribers this year including Avatar, Babylon, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Indiana And The Dial Of Destiny to name but a few.
He said the third factor was the performance of the group’s production and distribution arm Studiocanal.
The exec noted that the studio was enjoying a good start to the year, with the recent French box office success of Pierre Lacheau’s comedy Alibi.com 2.
The film has topped 1M entries, for a rough gross of $7M, in its first week on release from February 15. Studiocanal co-produced the film and is distributing it in France.
“We got the news this morning. It’s neck and neck with Astérix & Obelix,” said Saada, referring to Guillaume Canet’s €65M Pathé-backed picture which launched theatrically a week earlier.
Canal+ France Managing Director Gérard-Brice Viret said the cinema remained at the heart of the pay-TV platform’s offer, which counted 4,500 feature titles in total in its library.
“Cinema remains the top incentive for 70% of people who enquire about a subscription, followed closely by sport,” said Viret. “That wasn’t the case a few years ago, but cinema has made a comeback.”
He cited the success of a number of films in recent months such as Top Gun: Maverick, which drew three million viewers for its debut screening on Canal+ on December 22, before being made available on its subscriber channels and via VoD.
Viret added that 50 films had drawn more than a million viewers in 2022 across all forms of exploitation on Canal+, against 25 in 2021.
Saada and Viret also emphasized Canal+s historic relationship with French cinema, which spanned supporting popular artists, established auteurs and emerging talents.
They cited a handful of the 100 local films that will be made available to subscribers this year including The Night Of The 12th, Simone, A Woman Of A Century, and Masquerade as well as hits Alibi.com 2 and Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.
Canal+ deputy CEO Anna Marsh also took to the podium to discuss Studiocanal’s upcoming development and production.
She noted the previously announced Josephine Baker biopic by Maimouna Doucouré and also teased Audrey Diwan-written thriller Smiling Hacker, for which negotiations are underway to attach actor Tahar Rahim and Belgian directorial duo Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah to direct.
The exec also gave updates on two of its high-profile English-language projects, Jonny Campbell’s sci-fi action picture Cold Storage, which is due to begin shooting in Italy in April, and Amy Winehouse biopic Back To Black, which is currently filming in London’s Ealing Studios.
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