SAINT-DENIS, Seine-Saint-Denis (Reuters) - The director-producer Luc Besson [Unlink]
launched Friday its Cité du cinéma, a huge complex dedicated to cinema in Seine-Saint-Denis, whose ambition is to allow France compete with the major studios of its European neighbors. Located on the site of a former power station in Saint-Denis, the entire 62,000 square meters includes nine film studios, workshops, manufacturing decor, office space, a screening room and a film school. The project, which is the largest complex dedicated to cinema ever built in France, took over ten years to materialize. This little Hollywood overlooking Seine need some 170 million euros of investment and government involvement through the Caisse des Dépôts. After two years of work by da Vinci and a first inauguration postponed, the site has finally opened its doors Friday with the ambition to match its European alter ego: Pinewood in London, Berlin and Babelsberg Cinecitta in Rome. Ironically on the call by British Prime Minister David Cameron French taxpayers coming into exile in Britain, Luc Besson has invited the British to discover the studios Cité du cinéma. "The last plates are Mr. Cameron 1960s, they are today," he said on a platform installed in the monumental nave 220 meters of the building. Deeply moved, the director of "Leon" and "Big Blue" told to have had the idea for the project when he was forced to leave Britain for the filming of "fifth element" because they have found adapted studios in France. IRAP RISK French cinema displays vibrant health, as illustrated by the recent success of "The Artist" or "untouchables". However, the country receives only 3% to 5% of the European market for foreign productions, estimated at two billion euros when in London attracts nearly half. Blame the lack of infrastructure to accommodate big-budget productions, especially from the United States. The Cité du cinéma hope overcome this lack with its brand new building located just a few kilometers from Paris and well served by public transport. "The City film adds a type of infrastructure that did not exist here, these plateaus are a little American with lots of space, proximity to luxury hotels, transport infrastructure," said Reuters Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France, which promotes filming and post-production in France. The gamble is not without risk, as illustrated by the current woes of the legendary Cinecitta studios. Trays, founded in 1937, was damaged by fire and by strikes and penalized under-investment in new equipment, which caused them to lose significant productions, shot in studio cheaper in Eastern Europe or is better equipped to London and Berlin. "Cinecitta studio is completely obsolete, absolutely competitive. Should invest a lot of money to return to the page," he told Reuters Christophe Lambert, CEO of EuropaCorp, the production company co-founded by distribution and Luc Besson. TAX COMPETITION In addition to its facilities, the complex set on the attractiveness of Paris as well as the competence of French technicians, highly sought abroad to attract foreign productions, crucial to the viability of the project. "We need a big hosting foreign production per year which generally occupies the studio four or five months of the year and that makes a dozen French films," said Christopher Lambert. Studios in Paris, the company that manages the film studios whose EuropaCorp shareholder hope to achieve balance in the second year with an occupancy rate of 60%, he said. The Cité du cinéma has already hosted three shootings, including U.S. production "The Smurfs" and several production companies have joined EuropaCorp in Saint-Denis, including those of Jamel Debbouze [Unlink]
and Ariel Zeitoun. A leading French animation could also soon sign, said Christopher Lambert. However, the complex will succeed to take out of the game in Europe where there is a severe tax competition, states, each developed special devices to attract foreign productions. In France, an international tax credit was introduced two years ago, which has contributed to several projects, but some professional regret his cap to four million euros. "We think with the Ministry of Culture and other ministries to the idea of improving the tax credit," said Eric Garandeau Reuters, President of the National Film Centre (CNC).