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"Questi ingressi racchiudono tutta la diversità del cinema francese"

Rapporto industria: L'Europa e il resto del mondo

Gilles Pélisson • Presidente, Unifrance

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Il nuovo presidente di Unifrance decifra i risultati dei film francesi all'estero nel 2023

Gilles Pélisson  • Presidente, Unifrance
(© Christophe Chevalin/TF1)

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Following the unveiling of the report on the results of French films abroad in 2023 (read our article) within the 26th Unifrance Rendez-Vous in Paris, which opened yesterday (news), Unifrance president Gilles Pélisson - who was elected back in July (article) - took a moment with Cineuropa to share his outlook on the markets, the state of the sector and the future.

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Cineuropa: What are your thoughts on the results of French films abroad last year and the 37.4 million admissions recorded?
Gilles Pélisson
: We’re very happy with the 38.5% rise on 2022 and to note that these admissions relate to the full range of French films in all their diversity, but we’re also very aware that it’s lower than the 45-47 million admissions recorded in 2018-2019, not to mention in great years like 2017 which drew in 83 million admissions. So we do have to be modest about it, because despite some great successes last year, we’re still not back to pre-Covid levels. What’s more, the results achieved by Ladybug & Cat Noir Awakening, our international champion in 2023, can’t be taken into account because this movie was partly distributed around the world by Netflix.

It’s also important to stress the market power of western Europe, on the one hand, which remains our most successful geographical region in terms of viewers, and the diversity of our films, on the other, which consist, to give some of the most successful examples, of animations (notably Lady Bug & Cat Noir Awakening and Argonuts [+leggi anche:
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), comedies like Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom [+leggi anche:
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and action films like The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan [+leggi anche:
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, as well as dramas like Anatomy of a Fall [+leggi anche:
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and historical films like Jeanne du Barry [+leggi anche:
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, etc.: all these genres play a part in the circulation of French film abroad.

French-language films mostly dominate the 2023 results. Is this a source of pride or do you miss the time when a handful of French action blockbusters shot in English could send cinema admissions skyrocketing around the world?
What we expect first and foremost from French films is for them to be shot in French, and we should be proud of their performances abroad. Moreover, it’s not up to Unifrance to advocate for films shot in English for the international market. If they’re made, brilliant, but films of French origin shot in French are what’s really important.

Europe has always been a bedrock for circulating French films abroad, but this is increasingly the case since it accounted for 78.9% of admissions last year. Is this a good thing or is there a need to win back other regions?
First of all, there are still a few complicated markets in Europe and the situation is very mixed because viewers haven’t yet returned to cinemas in full, with admissions in Germany still down by 15% compared to pre-Covid periods, and by 25% in Italy and Spain. Asia also remains a challenge. In Japan, where Unifrance is organising a festival in Yokohama, we have an audience of Francophiles and cinephiles, but our results are far from fantastic. As for China, where Unifrance enjoys a presence in Peking, we’re in the process of developing a new strategy with our international sales agents to properly analyse the reopening of this market and to enhance our exports over a three-year period. This is a real emerging issue. Lastly, it has to be said that in the USA, Anatomy of a Fall in particular did really well and its career over there is far from over.

What about Latin America, which was presented a few years ago as a source of growth for French films but where their performance fell by 39% last year? Was this an economic issue or were more structural factors at play?
Platforms now play a major role in film distribution and in viewing habits over there. And we’re also seeing a fall in cinema admissions compared to 2019. Generally speaking, the markets are still recovering, but we hope that, little by little, viewers will return to cinemas, especially the younger generations.

It’s been six months since you took over as president of Unifrance. What will the "Pélisson touch" look like?
I’ll mostly be continuing the work initiated by Serge Toubiana and Hervé Michel and working as much for cinema as for TV. It’s clear that increasing numbers of artists and producers are working across two medias, and it’s important that Unifrance is able to support them. When it’s time to focus purely on film, then that’s what we do and it’s brilliant! When it’s time to focus on TV, like in our Biarritz Rendez-Vous (soon to become the Havre Rendez-Vous) or Series Mania, we focus on TV. But we also have moments, like in this Rendez-Vous in Paris, where there are brilliant moments for film but where TV has also enjoyed a presence for the past two years. And, at the same time, we’ll clearly be trying to lead the promotional side of things as well as possible. In fact, we’ve been given an unheard-of opportunity with Anatomy of a Fall, which is a champion we’d all dreamed of and which is reaping the benefits of its talents week after week: so we’re really looking forward to the Oscars, whilst also hoping that The Taste of Things [+leggi anche:
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has its chance. It all points towards French films which are easy to export and series which are starting to break through around the world, like Of Money and Blood [+leggi anche:
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, to give a recent example. Unifrance’s role is to support its artists, its filmmakers, its actresses, its actors and its producers worldwide, in order to raise their profile. It’s less the case in TV and far more the case in film, but this support, this promotion of all of our talents, is starting to take place, and that’s where Unifrance has a role to play.

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