France's National Cinema Centre (CNC) this week released box office figures for September - as well as unveiling an accord with the UK Film Council and announcing the winner of its screenwriting prize.

While overall figures for 2003 continue to spell depressing news - down 5.6% compared to 2002 - the month of September showed a strong increase over last year up 13.2% to 10.76m tickets sold. French films are holding strong however with only a slight variation in sales from the same period last year, down to 38.3 % market share from 38.6%

France is not alone however. The CNC's study of European box-office for the year shows that ticket sales are down in four major territories: France, Germany, Spain and the UK with Spain bearing the biggest brunt of the box office slump.

In other CNC news, the organisation announced an agreement signed with the UK Film Council during last week's Dinard Festival of British Film.

The accord is an exchange protocol which will see personnel shared between the two outfits. According to the CNC, "The program is destined to aid in better harmonising the work of the two agencies and should allow the CNC and the Film Council to better understand the working of each of the organisations as well as the stakes tied to their respective markets and political climates."

The CNC also announced the winners of the third First Screenplay Awards, which goes to ten writers for their first works.

A purse of Euros 6,100 accompanies the prizes along with development aid from the CNC. The winners are : Cyril Gelblat for Cycles, Marc Barrat and Apsita Berthelot for Decantation, Frederuc Dalmasso for En Lisiere, Jean-Pierre Lenoir for his documentary La Croix Du Sud, Yasmine Kassari for L'Enfant Endormi, Cheng Xioa Xing for Les Mandarines De janvier, Olivier Peyon and Cyril Brody for Les Petites Vacances, Eve Guillou for Mal De Mer, Frederique Gutman-Riaboukine for Passo Doble and Simon Kiye Luangkhot for Tao.

In all 336 scripts were considered before being whittled down to thirty for final consideration.