Expansion of the SOFICA tax schemes, additional regional funding and a restructuring of contributions from the video-DVD sectors could deliver an additional Euros80m-Euros100m to the French production sector.

Those are among the urgent measures in support of the struggling independent production sector recommended by a lengthy study delivered to government last week by the cinema regulator the CNC. "At stake is nothing less than the maintenance in France of an industry which this country gave birth to," says the report in its conclusion.

The report comes at a time when French cinema is performing strongly in terms of box office results and on the export front (Screen International, Sept 20). But there has been a wave of bankruptcies among independent producers and the virtual collapse of Canal Plus as a financier, leading many to fear a shortage of funding to fuel future growth.

The report highlights the explosive growth of big budget (over Euro10m) and very low-cost titles over the last ten years, to the detriment of mid-sized films. It also points to the growing dependence on money from the French broadcast sector, which represents 36% of an average film budget. It says that the two trends are linked and represent a threat to the diversity of French cinema. It also warns that the cash contributions of the free-TV channels will vary according to their advertising revenues. The French distribution sector - which only accounts for 6% of a budget through pre-buys, is said to be prevented from increasing the size of its minimum rising p&a costs.

Companies producing films with small and mid-sized budgets are the ones most hit by restrictions on the number of films that can be pre-bought by Canal Plus and by the little changed value of the avance sur recettes funding scheme provided through the CNC. At these companies the level of debt was shown to be rising.

The report recommends that the lid be taken off the amount of money that can be raised through the Sofica system beyond the current Euros46m and that the sector develop measures to increase the number of foreign co-productions, which currently only cover 8% of production costs.

France last year produced 172 feature films at a total production cost of Euros749m, matched by theatrical, home video, television and foreign sales receipts of some Euro 740m, compared to Euro662m in 2000.