2003 Productions - headed upby Warner Bros. France president Francis Boespflug - could again be faced withpossible refusal of its status as a French company.
The move comes as the companyprepares to release its first major film - Jean-Pierre Jeunet's A Very LongEngagement - and following a battle for eligibility for state benefits lastyear,
When 2003 Productionsannounced its creation, a complaint was filed in a French administrative courtby the Independent Producers' Association and the Independent Producers' Unionaccusing 2003 Productions of being controlled by US major Warner Bros. ratherthan being an independent company. French daily Le Figaro reported onWednesday that a government commission has given an opinion in favor of theclaimants.
No formal decision has yetbeen made by the court but should the opinion that "there is every reason tobelieve that this entity is not a production house but a prolongation of WarnerBros." stand, it could mean the rejection of 2003 Productions' mandate as anindependent French producer.
That status currently givesit access to state funding via the French film council (CNC) and access to thesupport account reserved for French producers which is made up of a percentageof box office, TV and video sales of a producer's films and which is availablefor re-channeling into future film productions. A final decision is expected in3-4 weeks.
The crux of the problem seemsto be 2003 Productions' financial structure. Warner Bros. owns 32%, Boespflugpersonally holds 16% and the rest is divided up amongst individuals who workfor 2003 Productions. Since the beginning, Boespflug has held that the companywill only produce French films in the French language and given the UScompany's minority stake, should therefore have access to state aid.
The company was originallycreated in order to produce Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's AVery Long Engagement which is set for release on October 27 and whichboasts the second biggest budget ever for a French film at Euros 45 million.
Jeunet's film and the companywere heavily scrutinised last year before the start of production as to whetheror not they were eligible under CNC guidelines. A stamp of approval was finallygiven in late October 2003.
Since then, the company hasannounced other films set for production, including L'Ex Femme De Ma Vie,a co-production with Warner Bros. France and other French companies, directedby Josiane Balasko.
According to sources, thatfilm has been given a French stamp of approval by the CNC and its partners,except for Warner Bros. France, have applied for support account access.
Both the CNC and Boespflugsaid they had no comment at this time.