The French loyalty pass battle heated up this week as Gaumont linked up with MK2 and Cine Classiques to launch a common loyalty card, Le Passe. UGC is now also seeking to partner with independent exhibitors, starting with the Ritman theater operation.

Le Passe is to be launched September 27, to coincide with the opening of Gaumont's Crimson Rivers (Les Rivieres Pourpres), the eagerly-awaited new film by Mathieu Kassovitz.

Like UGC and Pathe's passes, the scheme will enable the buyer to see an unlimited number of films in the theaters operated by the three partners for Ffr98 per month.

Although the controversy concerning loyalty passes - which MK2's Marin Kartmitz has been spearheading - still rages, the trend now appears irreversible. French minister of culture Catherine Tasca, who still officially opposes the loyalty pass principle, the CNC and several independent operators are toying with the concept of a universal card valid in all theaters.