French bomb testing in the South Pacific has nuked Gallic films in nuclear-free New Zealand.
For nearly 25 years, Kiwis and their government have vigorously opposed French testing at Mururoa in French Polynesia. When the French government declared it would resume testing at the fragile coral atoll, filmgoers began to stay away from French pics in New Zealand.
First signs of the fallout came at the Wellington Film Festival in July. Assistant director of the New Zealand Federation of Film Societies, Sandra Reid, said the festival had a “particularly strong lineup” of French films.
“French films in general do well, but this time we noticed numbers were down,” she said.
In Auckland in August, “Colonel Chabert,” starring Gerard Depardieu, suffered a similar fallout at two arthouse cinemas.
Blue Angel Films, which distributed the film to the two Auckland cinemas, unequivocally blamed the unpopular French nuclear testing.
“Ticket sales are certainly not what we expected,” said distributing manager, Sharon Byrne. “It is just not the politically correct thing to do to be seen at a French movie.”
Barbara Sumner, manager of Wellington’s Rialto Cinema, said attendance for “Chabert” had been disappointing – and so had some of her customers. She told one couple how good “Chabert” was, only to be accused by another patron of being “irresponsible.”
She added that by not going to films, patrons were harming themselves and the businesses that brought them to the country. She would not concede that French testing was the reason people stayed away.
“I wouldn’t put it down to French nuclear testing, I’d put it down to the propaganda of eco-fascists,” she said.
Kerry Robins, the owner of another Wellington cinema, the Paramount, said the film “La Crise,” which screened at the arthouse recently, also suffered at the box office. He thinks the reason was the renewed nuclear testing.
“We had a few people ring to tell us…. If people take the trouble to ring you, then there are 20 others out there who don’t come,” he said.
Kiwi distributors Everard Films is monitoring the Kiwi reaction and hoping to release “La Reine Margot” when – and if – the backlash fades.