The article 17 of French Law No. 2020-290 of 23 March 2020 on emergency measures to deal with the covid 19 epidemic (Covid Emergency Act), published in the Official Journal of 24 of March, sets up "an exceptional regime" to soften the media chronology.
The Covid Emergency Act allows the president of the Centre national de la cinématographie et de l’image animée
(CNC – the French Film Agency) to grant an exemption from the "official" four-month deadline for films released in theaters on March 14th
, 2020, i.e. the day before the closure of all French cinemas, in order to be screened in the form of VOD or DVD/Blu-Ray. This constitutes an unprecedented adjustment of the clauses of Article L.231-1 of the French Film and Moving Image Code, codifying the terms of the agreement for the reorganization of the media chronology dated September 6, 2018 and its addendum dated December 21st
, 2018. This exceptional derogation from the media chronology rules for movies released in theaters on March 14st, 2020 allowing these films to be made available quickly, is both a welcome test and a measure that is causing concern among operators. An arrangement allowing SVOD platforms to be part of the audiovisual content financing economy is desired by some operators who find inappropriate to have to wait 24 months after the theatrical release of a movie for which they have contributed to the pre-financing. Traditional operators are against all adjustment and they reminded the Minister of Culture, in the words of the President of the National Federation of French Cinemas, that " the urgency and necessity to the life of the nation of this measure [...] is absolutely not proven" while reiterating their "contrariety to deprive professionals of the control of such a provision without any consultation, and to modify the film code unilaterally". However, Covid Emergency Act introduces an exceptional and temporary measure that will allow the CNC to examine on a case-by-case basis, film by film, under certain conditions, the requests for VOD exploitation presented by the distributors, assignees of theatrical and video exploitation rights. The decision will be taken by the President of the CNC and will have to take into account, on the one hand, the difficulty of a new release only of the films that were in theaters on the day of the closure on March 15th
, 2020, announced for next summer, when other films will be programmed, and, on the other hand, the need to allow the preservation of exploitation revenues to remunerate distributors, producers and talents. As a result these films are no longer governed by the media chronology and are therefore undergoing another stage in their exploitation, before being aired on the TV channels of the broadcasters who pre-financed them. This should make it possible to measure in vivo
the conditions under which the holders of the film exploitation rights will be able to derive optimum benefit from exploitation on all media, in the context of the chain of contracts concluded for the financing of the feature film. In order to ensure that the measure is applied without undesirable effects, the CNC confirmed that the funds made available within the framework of an automatic or selective financial support to the film industry would not be reimbursed by the producers, the condition for granting them being the theatrical release of the film. In this respect, a similar announcement by French Ministry of Finances is to be expected on the maintenance of the benefit of the tax credit invested in each production concerned.