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The economy of 1950s popular French cinema

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Cinema was a major cultural issue in France of the 1950s, even if the film industry was in crisis. The number of films increased, but the audiences had been in decline from 19471952 when figures reached their lowest since the Liberation. The BlumByrnes agreements, signed in 1946, accentuated this decline. The quotas operating at the time (four weeks per quarter for French films and eight weeks for American films) meant that French films aimed to make a profit very rapidly in the first week of screening so as to make way for others. Popular French cinema emerged from this combination of attendance/overproduction/quotas. This combination pushed French producers toward thematic and aesthetic formulas aiming at rapid product placement so as to compete with American films. To remedy this situation, the French government passed a law in 1948 whose aim was to help re-energize the ailing French film industry with the help of public funds. With the principle of equality for the producers in mind, the redistribution of funds was based pro-rata on the box-office success of the previous film. This article demonstrates the links between this system and the growth of popular cinema. It is particularly because of the proliferation of popular films that critics and cinephiles mobilized in 1953 to obtain the creation of new fund to support quality The concept of quality in film was consequently defined during the 1950s as a function of the commercial success of popular cinema.

Keywords: 1950s; film support policy; popular cinema

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/sfci.6.2.141/1

Affiliations: Universit de Metz.

Publication date: September 1, 2006

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  • Studies in French Cinema is the only journal published in English devoted exclusively to French cinema, providing scholars, teachers and students from around the world with a consistent quality of academic investigation across the full breadth of the subject. Contributors scrutinise the cultural context of various works and the diverse stylistic approaches that infuse the visual fabric of this genre.
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