“In France, shows turn out little or badly (…) It is the state of overproduction, the result of a lack of regulation, which is the main cause of the difficulties in the distribution of works” : this observation was drawn up in 2004 by the Latarjet report at the end of a mission carried out at the request of the Ministry of Culture. Eighteen years later, this diagnosis established by Bernard Latarjet and which was a landmark in the world of performing arts, is noted by the Court of Auditors, which judges it ” still relevant “. Worse, in his eyes, “it got worse”.
In a thematic report, entitled “The support of the Ministry of Culture for performing arts”, published on Sunday May 29, the magistrates of rue Cambon are worried not only about the weak distribution despite an abundant offer but also about a lack of reliable and exhaustive data on the activity of this sector. It is as if the policy of supply, centered on the financing of creation, was still not connected to minimum distribution requirements.
France has, recalls the Court of Auditors, “an extremely dense territorial network” of some 1,300 places
Theatre, music, dance, circus and street art, France is a country teeming with shows and has, as the Court of Auditors points out,“an extremely dense territorial network” of some 1,300 venues (subsidized stages, municipal theatres, private halls, etc.). In 2019, live performance revenue was estimated at 12.3 billion euros. If the State remains an essential player in the sector (management of labels, appointments, etc.), local authorities, aware that culture contributes to local development, now provide “nearly three-quarters of live performance funding” : 2.5 billion in 2019 against 703 million from the Ministry of Culture.
Several figures show both the dynamism of the sector and the sprinkling of aid: between artistic teams, festivals, artist residencies, establishments outside networks and labels, 2,850 structures were supported by the State in 2020 ( compared to 1,997 in 2015). Half of the companies have an annual budget of less than 65,000 euros, 29% of which comes from public subsidies. Behind this abundant landscape, the Court of Auditors notes “insufficient results with regard to the objectives of cultural democratization and dissemination”.
Calling the situation a “concerning”the magistrates consider that “the low distribution of shows and the difficulty in increasing the number of performances have been the weak point of the public policy of support for live performances for fifty years”. Thus, the Court was able to calculate that in 2019, the average number of performances for a show was 3.7 in a national drama center (compared to 7 in 2004) and 2.3 for a national stage. In short, we create a lot in France but we broadcast little and part of the offer does not find its audience. At issue: a public aid system historically centered on the renewal of creation. “Nothing has really been done to redefine the balance between creation and distribution”, raise the magistrates while the Latarjet report already recommended it.
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