New Nouvelle Vague - France Flirts With Digital Cinema

Some film distributors are choosing to release movies directly online without theater screenings. Because of cinema regulations, this new model is forbidden in France — for French movies — but foreign films are another matter.

You watching a film on this tablet?
Nathalie Silbert

PARIS â€" Do viewers of first-run films really need a theater these days? Two major movie distributors have decided they don't, choosing to release feature films directly online, skipping the theater altogether. This is how The Age Of Adaline â€" starring Blake Lively and Harrison Ford â€" was recently launched in France.

The companies TF1 Video and Wild Bunch have both decided that they will choose this new "digital cinema" model for five releases this year, offering new films as on-demand rentals at around $8, the average price for a movie ticket.

For now, this is just an experiment, both companies say. They have found a way to follow the rules of French cinema and still use this new model. Because French films aren't allowed to be introduced this way, they will only release foreign movies, mostly English-language, digitally. This also allows them to free themselves from the calendar of a movie's life that determines how long it can be shown in each medium â€" theaters, DVD, VOD (video on demand), free television and paid television.

Wild bunch and TF1 Video say digital cinema releases will make movies more profitable, whereas today they are victims of the saturation of movie theaters. "With 663 movies released exclusively in 2014, the theater network, despite all its efforts, cannot guarantee a larger geographical coverage," says Vincent Grimond, president of Wild Bunch. The profusion of releases creates effectively eliminates the movies that don't convince the audience in their first days.

They also argue that a download gives the distributor a higher profit margin than what it would get with a ticket sold in a cinema. In fact, a VOD release is cheaper than a classical release because many expenses disappear (making copies and transportation, for example). Promotional expenses remain the same because films still need to create a buzz to attract viewers. And movies that go directly online have an advantage that Wild Bunch and TF1 Video are already exploiting: They can be sponsored by advertising companies on television, which is forbidden for films released in cinemas.

Bypassing the traditional calendar

Both distributors are counting on "post digital cinema" exhibitions. Movies can be sold to television channels, for example, to be broadcast on small screens even before the 36 months imposed for traditional cinema releases.

Finally, the development of broadband and the growing number of households equipped with HD television sets and tablets have made watching movies at home customary.

For all that, the digital cinema model still needs a bit of tweaking because initial results are mixed. The movie Welcome To New York enjoyed significant buzz because of its subject â€" the fall of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn. And thanks to Gérard Depardieu's portrayal of the former IMF boss, it generated more than 200,000 views. But the performance of the thriller Mercy â€" a huge success in Denmark, where Wild Bunch has released it as a digital film â€" will be disappointing.

In the medium term, the question is whether digital cinema will find its place in France. Already, the European Commission, seeing that a growing number of films are produced in Europe, has expressed support for this new model and encouraged experimentation. In the U.S., digital cinema â€" as well as simultaneous releases in theaters and on the Internet â€" has become common. The Weinstein brothers, famous American producers and distributors, are among the first in this market with their label Radius. Streaming giant Netflix is also planning to implement a new strategy for movies it will produce.

Digital exploitation has already become a lifeline for an entire sector of independent production. In France, this system encounters some difficulties because of financing in the movie industry that is based on cinema release. Being broadcast on big screens is the only criteria that allows a film to be labeled as "cinematic work." On the other hand, as producers have difficulty finding money for their films and as the number of theaters stagnates, having access to a parallel broadcasting system could be an advantage if it is efficient.

Tristan Du Laz, deputy general manager of TF1 Video, says, "We are ready to welcome every director who wants to come."

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!

Thousands of Tunisians gathered in the capital of Tunis

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Laphi!*

Welcome to Monday, where post-Merkel Germany looks set shift to a center-left coalition, San Marino and Switzerland catch up with the rest of Europe on two key social issues, and a turtle slows things down at a Japan airport. Meanwhile, we take an international look at different ways to handle beloved, yet controversial, comic books and graphic novels characters.

[*Aymara, Bolivia]


Social Democrats narrowly win German elections: Germany's center-left party claimed a narrow victory in the federal election, beating the CDU party of outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel by just over 1.5%, according to preliminary results. SPD leader Olaf Scholz has claimed a mandate to form a government with the Greens and Liberals, in what would be Germany's first three-way ruling coalition. Germany's capital city Berlin will also get its first female mayor.

Switzerland says yes to same-sex marriage: Nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters approved the proposal to legalize same-sex marriage in a referendum, making it one of the last countries in Western Europe to do so.

San Marino voters back legal abortion: More than 77% voted in support of legalizing abortion up to 12 weeks of pregnancy in San Marino in a historic referendum for the predominantly Catholic tiny city-state, which was one of the last places in Europe that still criminalized abortion.

COVID update: Australian authorities announced they will gradually reopen lockdowned Sydney, with a system that will give vaccinated citizens more freedom than the unvaccinated. Meanwhile, Thailand will waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and several other regions for vaccinated travellers in November. In Brazil, a fourth member of President Jair Bolsonaro's delegation to the United Nations has tested positive to COVID-19.

Power shortages in China spread: Tight coal supplies and toughening emissions standards have led to power shortages in northeastern China, forcing numerous factories including many supplying Apple and Tesla to halt production.

Strong earthquake hits Crete, at least one killed: An earthquake of magnitude 6 struck the Greek island of Crete, with reports that at least one person was killed and several injured after buildings collapsed.

Turtle causes delays at Tokyo airport: A wandering turtle forced the Tokyo Narita airport to close its runway for twelve minutes, delaying five planes, including an All Nippon Airways plane featuring ... a sea turtle-themed fuselage.


"Neck and neck," titles German daily Augsburger Allgemeine about the tight results of the federal election, which according to preliminary results, is set to be won by the center-left party SPD led by Olaf Sholz by just over 1.5%. It was the country's tightest race in years, and will likely lead to long, complicated negotiations to form a coalition government.



On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims from Senegal, but also from elsewhere in Africa, Europe, and the United States, converged to the great Mosque of Touba, as part of the Grand Magal. The annual pilgrimage, a Wolof word meaning celebration, marks the date French colonial authorities exiled spiritual leader and founder of the Senegalese Mouride Brotherhood Sheikh Amadou Bamba.


Cancel Tintin? Spotting racist imagery in comics around the world

From the anti-Semitic children's books of Nazi Germany to the many racist caricatures of Asian, African or Indigenous people in the 20th century, comics have long contained prejudiced, sexist and xenophobic stereotypes. These publications have been rightfully criticized but some are pushing back, saying that this kind of unwarranted "canceling" threatens freedom of expression. Here are examples from three countries around the world about how people are handling the debate and sketching the future of comics.

🔥📚 The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix both emerged in French-speaking Europe during the 20th century and quickly developed global audiences. But the comic books have also been called out for controversial depictions of certain groups, including North American Indigenous peoples. And as Radio-Canada recently reported, one group of French-speaking schools in Ontario found the texts so offensive that they decided to go ahead and burn the books. The report, not surprisingly, stirred up a pretty fiery debate on the issues of free speech and what some refer to as "cancel culture."

🤠 In a more progressive model for rethinking cartoons with long — and complicated — legacies, Lucky Luke in France is taking a different direction. Telling the story of a cowboy in the Wild West, the series is notably lacking in terms of diversity. But in 2020, well-known French cartoonists Julien Berjeaut (known as Jul) and Hervé Darmenton (known as Achdé) took on the challenge of a more inclusive Lucky Luke. With its 81st album, Un Cow-Boy Dans Le Coton (A Cowboy in High Cotton), they changed the perspective to focus on recently freed Black slaves.

🇯🇵 Outside of France and Belgium, Japan arguably has the largest market for graphic novels, or manga, which first developed in the late 19th century. And like their European counterparts, certain manga titles have been accused of using racist tropes. One example is the character Mr. Popo, a genie from the popular Dragon Ball series who has been cited for having offensive features. In the meantime, more and more mangaka (creators of manga) are expanding beyond these traditional representations, including in their depictions of women, who are over-sexualized in many mangas.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


"Still now, I am terrified."

— In mid-August, Afghan news anchor Beheshta Arghand interviewed Mawlawi Abdulhaq Hemad, a high-ranking Taliban representative, for TOLOnews. A historic moment for the female presenter, just days after the Islamic fundamentalist group took over Afghanistan. Now exiled in Albania, Arghand tells the BBC in a moving testimony why she had to flee to Albania and how she, like many in her country, has lost everything.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin, Clémence Guimier & Bertrand Hauger

Support Worldcrunch
We are grateful for reader support to continue our unique mission of delivering in English the best international journalism, regardless of language or geography. Click here to contribute whatever you can. Merci!