France's Cite du Cinema aims to lure Hollywood
By Elena Berton and Gwénaëlle Barzic
PARIS (Reuters) - French director Luc Besson has realized his dream of building a world class film complex on the banks of the Seine. Now the only question is whether big-budget Hollywood productions will take the bait.
Cite du Cinema, the largest film studio facility ever built in France, at a cost of 170 million euros ($200 million), opens this weekend aiming to attract foreign productions with facilities to match those in Hollywood.
But while the complex offers modern equipment and facilities to compare with studios in Berlin, London and Rome - Europe's three largest film centers - France's lower tax breaks for international productions could still reduce its appeal.
Located on the grounds of a former 1930s power station in Seine-Saint-Denis, a working class neighborhood just outside Paris, the Cite du Cinema is the creation of director and producer Besson, who discovered the disused Art Deco-style site when shooting exteriors in the 1990s for his movies "Leon" and "Nikita".
The site houses nine film studios, workshops for building film sets, office space for production companies and a film school in a 62,000 square meters site.
"The attractiveness of Cite du Cinema, which is indisputable on a technical level, will be weighed down by the fact that our financial attractiveness for very large budgets is now lower than that of our neighbors," said Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, a non-profit agency which promotes France as a location for film and television shoots.
Foreign production companies spend around 2 billion euros a year on shooting and post production in Europe every year, with Britain taking around half of this. France only gets 3 to 4 percent.
Although France has introduced tax rebates of 20 percent to attract more big-budget film projects, these have been capped at 4 million euros per production. Continued...