French film production is still up, foreign investment is high but local investment is slowing, according to latest figures from France's National Cinema Centre (CNC).

Two hundred films were produced in France in 2002, 163 of which were majority French efforts. Those figures are down, but only slightly, from 2001 which saw 204 films produced (172 predominantly French).

Total investment was down to Euros 861m from Euros 905m the previous year. However, foreign input was up - to Euros 182m from Euros 176m in 2001 while money coming from inside France was down - to Euros 678m from Euros 729m the year before.

The upswing in foreign investment is due to France's position as European co-producing partner of choice. With access to so many subsidies and funds, France was sought out to the tune of 94 co-productions in 2002. The leading co-producer with France was Belgium with 15 films while the UK made 10 films, up from seven in 2001. Germany was responsible for nine co-productions, up from four the previous year.

The ratios are to be expected, given that Belgium is a close neighbour which shares a language with France and in the case of the UK and Germany it's clear that the former's sale and leaseback scheme and the latter's co-production treaty with France are big draws.

The downside of these co-productions, however, was an impact on locations choices. While studio work in France rose, exterior location shooting took a hit - most likely because an easy way to access foreign co-production money is to do part of the shooting or post-production in the co-producing country.

The drop in local investment is a bit more problematic. According to the CNC, Canal Plus, which is obliged to devote 9% of its revenues to French film production, reduced its investment in 2002 by 20% to Euros 123m. The news is certain to raise the hackles of many in the French film industry who have believed for years that Canal was trying to ignore its obligations. However, explanations were offered at the CNC's press conference and by Canal Plus' acquisitions director Natalie Bloc-Laine.

According to the CNC, the problem is essentially an accounting issue. The CNC and Canal Plus do not arrange their calendars in the same way and so some films which land on the CNC's list for a particular year may be included in Canal's list for the following year, and vice-versa. CNC president David Kessler stated that this issue came up last year - though that time in Canal Plus' favour - but that those figures were slightly off and thus this year's figures are compensating for that.

Canal Plus also released its own figures today saying that it had invested Euros140m in majority French films in contrast to the CNC's figure of Euros 117m - citing the same differences in accounting. Broadcast watchdog the CSA will examine whether or not Canal Plus has respected its obligations and will report on it in the next few months.

Rival satellite platform TPS reduced its investments as well but by a much smaller margin. Investing in 17 films, the group spent Euros 23.7m compared to Euros 23.8m the previous year.

Overall, television presales were down in France by 10.3% to Euros 215m - something that reflects a growing malaise across the continent. Conversely, terrestrial channels increased their investments by 8% to Euros 108m. This is also due to an increase in the obligations handed down to broadcasters by the CSA last year.

Some 62 films benefited from the advance on receipts scheme for Euros 17.9m. That figure is slightly lower than the previous year which saw Euros 17.9m in advances.

The most prolific producers of the year were Luc Besson's Europa Corp with six films produced at an average budget of Euros 14m and Paolo Branco's Gemini which also produced six films though their average budget was only Euros 1.9m. Following them were three companies which made four films: Gaumont, Les Films Alain Sarde and Nord-Ouest Productions (the company set up by Christophe Rossignon). With three films each, ARP, Fidelite, Les Films Pelleas, Maia Films, MK2 and Telema are followed by 17 companies that made two films each.