Gallic B.O. plunges during Cup frenzy

'Lethal,' 'Armageddon' lifting fog

PARIS — France’s record-breaking surge in first-quarter box office results slowed considerably in May and June as the effects of the World Cup soccer competition kicked in.

Figures released by the Federation National des Cinemas Francais (FNCF), which an umbrella org for the majority of French exhibitors, showed second-quarter entries at 39.5 million tickets — a 10% rise on the same period last year. Results for May, however, were 7% down on last year, while June slipped 5%.

Despite the slide, the storming start to this year (with 91 million tickets sold in the first six months, an increase of 43% over 1997) means that the Gallic box office is well-set to outperform last year’s total of 150 million.

Lack of event titles

Having kicked off the year with all-time French box office champ “Titanic” and local laugher “Les Couloirs du Temps,” distribs ran for cover during the soccer spectacle. Current local hits “The Dinner Game” and “Taxi,” which have taken $43 million and $32 million, respectively, were released late April and have been benefiting from a relative lack of event movie rivals.

Only four other pics released in the second quarter managed to sell over 1 million tickets — “The Man in the Iron Mask,” “Jackie Brown,” “Flubber” and “Deep Impact.”

In the traditionally lackluster summer period, the arrival of “Lethal Weapon 4” and “Armageddon” has breathed new life into the box office. “Lethal Weapon 4” has taken in $11 million in its first two weeks, while the Bruce Willis starrer “Armageddon” opened on Wednesday to a chunky $1.5 million first day.

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