The artistic triumph and economic failure of France's subsidised film industry


The French cinema industry has some of the world’s highest-paid stars and largest film budgets, but is losing money hand over fist. The paradox is explained by a system of public subsidies paid to make films whatever their box office appeal. Even for those which prove a popular success, the enormous production costs are hardly ever recovered. The subsidies paid to the French film industry are part of a complex system that its supporters say has allowed it, over many decades, to maintain a rich production while other national cinema industries in Europe have faded. Its critics argue it is a perverse and outdated economic model. In this interview with Joseph Confavreux, the sociologist Olivier Alexandre, a specialist in the history of modern French cinema, analyses how the system works and weighs up the arguments for and against.

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The French film industry has had a turbulent time of late, sparked by the controversial antics of one of its biggest stars, Gérard Depardieu, who, after announcing last December he was to become an exile in Belgium to avoid the planned introduction of a 75% tax on top income earners, adopted Russian nationality upon the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.