Cinema attendance in France continued to decline in 1992, but a new report suggests a halt to the decadelong downturn.

According to the Centre Nationale de Cinematographie’s annual report, the 1.4 % drop in annual attendance, to 116 million, is considerably less than predicted.

Moreover, French domestic share of the box office actually increased. CNC exec Dominique Wallon said there’s reason to believe conditions have stabilized and are actually improving after a decade of dismal figures.

“1992 was a hard year, and there’s a hard year ahead,” Wallon said, reviewing the annual report to be released today. During 1992, Europe’s largest cinema industry showed encouraging vitality, she said.

Production stabilized in 1992 with 155 films, down one from 1991, and 113 of them were either totally financed or majority co-produced by the French — five more than in 1991. Overall investment totaled $ 676 million, of which the French put up $ 528 million. The average feature budget rose 9% to $ 3.4 million.

Biggest single chunk of investment went to 20 films, each with budgets over $ 8 million, including $ 40 mil “Germinal,” an adaptation of the Zola classic; Bertrand Blier’s “Un Deux Trois Soleil”; Gerard Oury’s “Le Grippe Sou”; and Christian Flechner’s “Le Batard de Dieu.”

Actual number of features distributed in France was 381, down from 438 in ’91 . Americans released only 120 films in ’92, vs. a record 150 the year before.

The French released a record 162 pix in ’92. Foreign films sent into the French market dropped 40% to 99.

Leading distributor in 1992 was Warner Bros., which scored heavily with “The Bodyguard” and several Disney-produced pix. WB was followed by Gallic indie AMLF (“La Crise”), Columbia (taking a big bite of the Christmas market with “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”), UIP (“Patriot Games”) and UGC (“Basic Instinct”).

Overall, six firms repping primarily U.S. product captured 43.8% of the market.

Local pix boosted their share of the market, with 40.4 million tickets sold.

Wallon attributes this 12.4% domestic upswing largely to “The Lover, “”Indochine,””1492: Conquest of Paradise,””Le Zebre,””Tous les Matins du Monde” and other hits.

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