According to article 19 of the French cinematographic industry code, the screening of cinematographic films is subject to obtaining a distribution certificate issued by the Ministry of Culture.
The certificate is issued on the recommendation of the Board of Film Classification, whose composition and functioning are fixed by order no. 90-174 of 23 February 1990 (amended by order no. 2001-618 of 12 July 2001).
If the work elicits no observations, or if the producer agrees with the measures proposed by the sub-committee, the certificate is issued in accordance with a simplified procedure.
If there is a more serious problem that may involve restrictive measures, the work is examined in a plenary session.
The Board communicates its considered opinion to the Minister, who makes the final decision.
If the Minister envisages taking more restrictive measures than those proposed by the Board, the Minister must then ask it to examine the work afresh.
Decisions on cinematographic works (including trailers) made by the Minister after a recommendation from the Board involve the following measures :
- certificate authorising the screening of the film to all members of the public
- certificate prohibiting the screening of the film to minors under twelve
- certificate prohibiting the screening of the film to minors under sixteen
- certificate prohibiting the screening of the film to minors under eighteen
- certificate totally prohibiting the screening of the film.
Films may also be classified by the order of the Minister of Culture as "pornographic films or those containing an incitement to violence" (article 12 of the act of 30 December 1975).
As from 1 January 1976, the list of pornographic films and those containing an incitement to violence is drawn up on the recommendation of the Board of Film Classification.
These films are not permitted to benefit from any financial support in the form of automatic selective aid.