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DISTRIBUTION France

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1,093 screens: A record release in France for The Force Awakens

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- Disney France has set a new precedent for the launch of a film in France, but many distributors are playing the counterprogramming card

1,093 screens: A record release in France for The Force Awakens
Star Wars, The Force Awakens by JJ Abrams

While the previous record of 1,078 screens had been held by the theatrical release of 2008’s Asterix at the Olympic Games [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the media storm surrounding the worldwide launch of the new instalment in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens, this Wednesday has propelled the US blockbuster to the top of the charts of the widest releases of all time in France, with the movie occupying 1,093 screens (in 759 cinemas) out of a total pool of 5,647 available screens in the country. And the French distribution branch of The Walt Disney Company is also making the most of this to shatter another, more recent, record – that of the number of pre-sold tickets, with over half a million bookings.

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In the face of this US colossus, and much to the enthusiasm of exhibitors that do not wish to miss the opportunity to pack out their establishments at any cost, and to hit the gas on the home stretch for 2015’s theatrical attendance levels (which look set to end up being around 203-205 million viewers), several distributors are nevertheless playing the counterprogramming card, a strategy that certain people consider suicidal, while others see it as an interesting opportunity to draw in those audiences that are indifferent to lightsabers.

Featuring among these daring distributors are Bac Films, which is releasing the promising The Great Game [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 by Nicolas Pariser (revealed at Locarno) in 89 theatres; Bellissima Films, which is distributing The Wait [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Lou de Laâge
interview: Piero Messina
film profile
]
 by Italian director Piero Messina (a feature debut directly selected in competition at the Venice Film Festival and which is toplined by French actresses Juliette Binoche and Lou de Laâge, a recently announced European Film Promotion Shooting Star) in 35 cinemas; Sophie Dulac Distribution, which is launching Rabin, the Last Day [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
 by Amos Gitaï (also popular in competition at Venice) across 30 screens; Urban Distribution, which is pinning its hopes on the head-turner My Skinny Sister [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Sanna Lenken
film profile
]
 by Sweden’s Sanna Lenken (in 28 theatres); and Pyramide Distribution, which is bringing out the documentary Je Suis Charlie [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 by Emmanuel and Daniel Leconte, which takes a look back at the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January this year, across 24 screens.

In terms of the number of print runs, the most daring distributors are Mars Distribution, with 145 screens for The Very Private Life of Mister Sim [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 by Michel Leclerc (read the article – adapted from the novel of the same name by British author Jonathan Coe, starring a cast including Jean-Pierre Bacri, Mathieu Amalric and Valeria Golino), and UGC Distribution, which has clinched 206 theatres for the romantic comedy The Sense of Wonders [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 by Eric Besnard (toplined by Belgian actress Virginie Efira).

The results of this strategy of taking a gamble on counterprogramming will be very enlightening to analyse in a market that is, on the whole, increasingly bipolar in terms of box-office performance, with a very clearly widening gap between success and failure in a setting marked by an overabundance of new releases fiercely struggling to gain access to theatres and hold the attention of fickle potential viewers. In terms of the level of cinematic diversity, this is certainly one consequence of the "dark side of the Force".

(Translated from French)

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