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Serge Bromberg Sentenced in 2020 Film Fire Case

Judge’s sentence for the former Annecy creative director and Lobster Films founder exceeds prosecutor’s recommendation, setting up a possible appeal.

This past Tuesday, Serge Bromberg, former Artistic Director of Annecy International Animation Festival and founder of Lobster Films, was sentenced to a 5 year suspended prison sentence with 1 year of house arrest under electronic surveillance for his negligence in an August 2020 nitrate film fire that resulted in the death of 2 people.

Bromberg acknowledged that he was solely responsible for storing the old nitrate film reels under an inhabited 8 story building in Vincennes, in the Val-de-Marne district on the outskirts of Paris. Storing such film in a building that is not properly refrigerated and insulated is illegal.

Old nitrate film is notoriously inflammable. Fires involving nitrate film are extremely difficult to extinguish and give off highly toxic gasses. The fire occurred on the night of August 10, 2020 in the midst of an extreme heat wave. The air conditioning in the storage room was turned off due to complaints from neighbors about the noise. The space was not equipped with a fire alarm and a fire wall disintegrated soon after the fire broke out. August is holiday season in France so the apartment building was relatively empty, or there could have been many more fatalities.

Lobster Films, founded by Bromberg in 1985, specializes in the restoration and distribution of vintage film. The prosecution contended that as an experienced film restorer, Serge was well aware of the danger of fire with nitrate film.

Fully acknowledging his responsibility for the fire, Bromberg testified that . . . “I am the sole person responsible for this drama. It is my fault and exclusively my fault. I am unforgiveable and I hardly dare ask for forgiveness.”

The judge found Bromberg guilty of manslaughter, involuntary injury, endangerment of others, and involuntary destruction of property by fire. The sentence of 5 years in prison, with 4 years suspended and 1 year of house arrest, plus a fine of 150,000 euros for Lobster Films, exceeded by 1 year the prosecution’s request of 4 years suspended prison term with 1 year of house arrest and a 150,000 euro fine. Bromberg’s lawyer, Emmanuel Mercinier, stated that they are considering appealing the sentence which he described as “far from lenient.”