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INDUSTRY France

2018 not a vintage year for French films abroad

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- With 40 million admissions and takings of €237 million in foreign theatres last year, French cinema saw its weakest performance of the last decade

2018 not a vintage year for French films abroad
Taxi 5 by Franck Gastambide

In the absence of a single film to unify audiences on a global level, a type of production often exemplified over the last few years by the English-language titles produced by EuropaCorp or by comedies such as Untouchable [+see also:
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, French cinema recorded some disappointing results abroad in 2018, racking up 40 million admissions (or 52% less than the 82.5 million notched up in 2017) and €237 million in takings, according to UniFrance. This provisional result, unveiled at the Rendez-vous With French Cinema in Paris, means that 2018 is at the lower limit of the last decade, languishing at a similar level to 2016 (40.7 million viewers) and light years away from the record of 144.1 million admissions that was set in 2012. 

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Despite this disappointing total for 2018, French cinema has kept up a very high level of exhibition overseas, with 665 films exhibited in foreign movie theatres last year, including 78 titles that drew in more than 100,000 viewers and six features that racked up over one million admissions. Interestingly, 62.2% of the combined results were recorded by French-language works, and minority French productions contributed to just over one-third of the 2018 total (as against 65.7% for features of French initiative).

One particular statistic illustrates perfectly the lack of any landmark titles last year, as the five biggest French successes of 2018 represented a mere 27.1% of the overall admissions for French films in foreign theatres, whereas they achieved a figure of 64.8% in 2017. 

With 2.4 million admissions, Taxi 5 [+see also:
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 by Franck Gastambide occupied the top spot in the 2018 chart of majority French productions abroad. The other two places on the podium are occupied by C’est la vie! [+see also:
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 by Éric Toledano and Olivier Nakache (1.67 million), and La Ch’tite famille [+see also:
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]
 by Dany Boon (1.06 million). They are followed by Belle et Sébastien 3 [+see also:
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 by Clovis Cornillac (790,000 viewers), White Fang [+see also:
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 by Alexandre Espigares (780,000 admissions), The Jungle Bunch 3D [+see also:
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 by David Alaux (750,000), Rolling to You [+see also:
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by Franck Dubosc (690,000), The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales… [+see also:
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 by Benjamin Renner and Patrick Imbert, and The Young Karl Marx [+see also:
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]
 by Raoul Peck (660,000). 

As for the geographical make-up of the admissions for French films overseas, Western Europe was the top market in 2018 (for the third year in a row) with nearly 17.8 million viewers, or 45.1% of the 2018 total. In fact, Italy even became the most receptive territory for French films in the world, with 3.94 million tickets sold, followed by Belgium and Luxembourg with 2.93 million, Spain with 2.92 million and Germany with 2.78 million. 

For the first time, Latin America came in in second place in the ranking of markets for French cinema, with 14.6% of the admissions, outpacing Central and Eastern Europe (13.7%, with a very sharp drop compared to 2017, and with Poland and Russia each racking up around 1.4 million admissions), North America (11.3% and a market share that has been on a downward trend for the last ten years), Asia (11.1% and some very disappointing results in China), Oceania (2.73%) and the area encompassing Africa and the Middle East (1.39%). 

The usual trend of seeing some very strong fluctuations in the total from one year to the next, dependent on the scores of one single film (often in the English language), may not be that worrying in the long term, but the delicate situation that EuropaCorp finds itself in (see the article) and the difficulties in the USA (with French films suffering from increasingly limited access to the multiplexes) and China (where viewers are increasingly gravitating towards national productions and US blockbusters) risk complicating matters on the world stage in the years to come. Nevertheless, French cinema still has some aces up its sleeve, particularly through its arthouse films, which exert an undeniable drawing power on international audiences. This is a quality that, when combined with the strong overall diversity of titles (encompassing comedies, animation and so on) and the fact that a considerable volume of features are being bought by foreign distributors, will guarantee a decent circulation in the future. Nevertheless, we should not overlook the presence of platforms and digital promotion at the various film showcases, such as the MyFrenchFilmFestival (see the news), which gets under way today.

(Translated from French)

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