Comedies, Family Fare Dominated Global B.O. for French Movies in 2022

Comedies such as “Serial (Bad) Weddings 3” and family fare, including “Pil’s Adventures” and “The Wolf and the Lion,” helped the overseas box office for French movies climb back in 2022.

While international ticket sales for French movies were still 32.5% down compared with pre-pandemic times, admissions grossed €167.4 million ($180 million) from 27 million admissions in 2022 – a 51.8% year-on increase.

Figures highlighting the performance of French movies in theaters at festivals and on streaming services were unveiled by Unifrance, the French film and TV promotion org, during the Export Day, which took place on Tuesday in Paris.

“Youth and family audiences were the first to return to theaters (when they reopened), and so films targeted at these demographics performed best,” said Unifrance in its study. Theaters in most countries around the world were indeed shut down for several months in 2021.

The org’s co-managing director Gilles Renouard also noted that there was a “concentration of admissions for a limited number of movies (often produced by the U.S. majors).” This domination by U.S. tentpoles has impacted the performance of films from other nationalities, including French ones.

For the fifth consecutive year, there were fewer foreign moviegoers for French films than there were in France. As many as 2,132 new films were released last year. That included minority French films, such as such as Ruben Ostlund’s Palme d’Or winning “Triangle of Sadness,” as well as “Fireheart,” and “Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness” and Joachim Trier’s Cannes prizewinning “The Worst Person in the World.” These films accounted for 44% of the yearly ticket sales, on par with 2021.

“Pil’s Adventures,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Fireheart,” “Little Nicholas’ Treasure” and “Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness” were among the top French animation titles in the international B.O. last year, breaking a five-year record in terms of market share. Adventure films and documentaries also gained ground.

Western Europe was once again the leading overseas market for French movies, kicking off with Germany, the number one purveyor of Gallic fare, followed by Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Latin America in the third position. Some markets have not yet recovered from the pandemic, including Asia. “The Chinese market exerts a major influence on the overall performance for the continent, and since it is still significantly impacted by the consequences of the pandemic, the number of spectators for French films fell fivefold in the space of a year,” said Unifrance.

Unifrance predicts 2023 will see French films bouncing back at the international box office, with a raft of anticipated films, such as “Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom,” and the two-part saga “The Three
Musketeers,” along with the animated franchise movie “Ladybug & Cat Noir: The Movie” and “Argonuts,” among others.

More than 3,500 French films were available on streamers in 2022, repping 6.9% of the international libraries of key services. MUBI boasted the biggest offering with 31.3% of French films, followed by Curiosity Stream (10.3%), Netflix (6.3%), Amazon Prime Video (4.4%), and HBO Max (3.6%).

Lastly, French movies accounted for almost a quarter of films that were part of official selections across the 10 major international festivals. There were a total 238 Gallic films that turned up in lineups at these festivals, a 17.8% increase. Last year was indeed a big year in terms of laurels, with Claire Denis winning the Silver Bear at Berlin with “Both Sides of the Blade,” and the Cannes Grand Prize with “Stars at Noon,” Alice Diop winning the Silver Lion and Lion of the Future at Venice with “Saint Omer,” and Christophe Honoré taking San Sebastian’s Golden Shell for best actor (Paul Kircher) with “Winter Boy.”

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