January 30, 2023


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France 2022 box office: No French films among top earners

3 min read

For the first time since 1989, there were no French films in the country’s top 10 box office, which was dominated exclusively by US studio movies.

James Cameron’s “Avatar: The Way of Water” leads the 2022 chart with an estimated $54 million from 7.8 million admissions since its Dec. 14 release, followed by “Top Gun: Maverick,” “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” ” Jurassic World Dominion,” “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” “The Batman,” “Thor: Love and Thunder,” “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Fantastic Beast: Dumbledore’s Mystery.”

But even these blockbusters failed to bring the French box office back to its pre-pandemic levels. It was down 28% in 2019.

Ticket sales hit 152 million in 2022, a 60% year-over-year increase, but that’s because theaters were closed for more than 5 months in 2021. ComScore France said the French box office was affected by a variety of factors, including the threat of a covid variant, the rescheduling of several expected releases in the first month of 2022 and a small number of US movie releases in the summer.

The top-grossing French film, “Serial (Bad) Weddings 3,” came in 12th among the year’s releases with 2.4 million tickets. The third installment of a UGC-produced comedy franchise, “Serial (Bad) Weddings 3,” underperformed massively compared to the previous two entries. The initial movie, released in 2014, sold more than 12.4 million admissions, and the second earned 7 million tickets. The franchise revolves around the Verneuil family, an upper-class – and xenophobic – French Catholic couple (Christian Clavier, Chantal Lauby) whose daughters married men of different religions and ethnic backgrounds.

“We’ve had many years where only one or two French movies made the top 10, but in 2022 there was none,” said Eric Marty at ComScore France. Marty said big comedies expected to headline last year’s top-grossing locales, such as “Serial (Bad) Weddings,” “Super-Hero Malgre Louis,” and “Dookubu President!” Did not fare as well as expected.

“There’s a fatigue for formulaic comedies and audiences seem to be looking for more original movies and different kinds of stories,” Marty said, citing Cedric Jimenez’s counterterrorism thriller “November” after the Paris attacks. With Jean Dujardin in 2015. The StudioCanal movie ranked as the second-highest-grossing local film with sales of $2.3 million.

The third biggest local language hit was “Simone: A Woman of the Century,” Warner Bros. France’s biopic of Simone Weil, an Auschwitz survivor who became France’s health minister and championed the 1975 law that legalized abortion in France.

Although there were few major French box office hits in 2022, the year was punctuated by several sleeper successes, including Louis Garrel’s romantic crime comedy “The Innocent,” Dominique Mol’s thought-provoking thriller “La Nuit du 12” and Cédric Clapis’ Arthouse movies like Saw were included. “N Corps.” A few world cinema titles also proved successful, notably Tariq Saleh’s “Cairo Conspiracy”, which represented Sweden in the Oscar race, and was France’s biggest (non-English) foreign-language hit after Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite”.

Paradoxically, while US movies dominated the French box office last year, their market share was slightly lower due to fewer American movies being released. Average box office for US releases rose last year. According to ComScore, the opposite was true for French movies, whose market share was flat in 2021.

Apart from audience fatigue and release time, Marty says some French movies have also suffered from distribution on too many screens. “Many French distributors rolled out their films across 300 screens and in many cases the theaters were half-empty – which doesn’t help build good buzz around a film,” said the executive. In contrast, US studios opted for a more inclusive release plan. For example, “Smile”, released by Paramount on 250 screens, packed cinemas and sold more than 1.2 million tickets.

Looking ahead, the French box office is likely to grow in the first half of 2023, boosted by a tide of expected major local language titles, for example Gaumont’s “Father and Soldier” with Omar Sy, as well as Pathe’s “The Three Musketeers: D” ‘Artagnan’ and “Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom.”

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