U.S. films took an unprecedented 60% of the box office in France in 1994, as a lack of strong local fare saw the Gallic market share slump to a new low of 28%.

However, three years of heavy investment in upgrading screens and building new multi-plexes are beginning to pay off, according to figures released by the Centre National de la Cinematographie.

Attendance down

Total attendance in 1994 hit 126 million, down from the exceptional 1993 results of 132 million, but otherwise the strongest theatrical performance since ’87.

CNC sources said ’93 was boosted by four powerhouse productions – U.S. movies “Jurassic Park” and “Aladdin,” and local pix “Les Visiteurs” and “Germinal.”

Although Gallic fare such as Luc Besson’s actioner “Leon,” comedy “The City of Fear,” Michel Blanc’s “Grosse Fatigue” and costumer “Queen Margot” performed honorably in ’94, none was a major theatrical draw.

“French cinema was missing one or two very big hits,” the CNC said.

Clawing back

Given the cyclical nature of the business, local industry observers are predicting the French will claw back market share points in 1995, spurred on by the current comedy smash “Un Indien dans la Ville,” another laugher, “Gazon Maudit,” and the Gerard Depardieu-Vanessa Paradis starrer “Elisa.”

The trio has taken more than $64 million at Gallic hardtops this year.

“We have some very attractive films scheduled for release this year. I really think 1995 will be encouraging,” one senior circuit programmer said.

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