‘Cite Du Cinema’ Opens in France Hoping to Attract Foreign Productions

The largest film studio facility in France opened Friday to mixed expectations

Cite du Cinema, the largest film studio facility ever built in France, opened on Friday with a lofty goal to attract foreign productions with facilities matching those in Hollywood.

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The complex, erected on the banks of the Seine, cost about $200 million, according to Reuters.

Built on the grounds of a former 1930s power station in Seine-Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, Cite du Cinema is the creation of director and producer Luc Besson, who discovered the site when shooting for his movies "Leon" and "Nikita" in the 1990s.

The complex — which houses nine film studios, workshops for building film sets, production company office space and a film school — is modeled after some of  Europe's largest film centers in London, Berlin and Rome.  

However, France's lower tax breaks could deter international filmmakers.

"The attractiveness of Cite du Cinema, which is indisputable on a technical level, will be weighed down by the fact that our financial attractiveness for very large budgets is now lower than that of our neighbors," Patrick Lamassoure, managing director of Film France (a non-profit agency which promotes France as a location for film and television shoots) told Reuters.

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Besson decided to create a large studio in France while shooting his first major international project, "The Fifth Element", starring Bruce Willis and Milla Jovovich, in London because French venues were too small for the film.

“I’m feeling rather emotional,” Besson told guests at Cite du Cinema's inauguration ceremony on Friday, according to Screen Daily. “This has been a long journey involving the support and efforts of hundreds if not thousands of people, all of whom I would like to thank."

Cite du Cinema, dubbed by locals as the Hollywood-sur-Seine, started taking shape after the French government's investment arm, Caisse des Depots et Consignations (CDC), provided financial backing along with Vinci Immobilier, the real estate unit of French construction company Vinci.

The facility housed brief production work on Taken 2, Smurfs 2 and the French comedy "Vingt ans d’ecart" this summer, reported Screen Daily.

Besson began shooting "Malavita," a mafia comedy starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer on Sep. 7.