Big haul for Gaul

Local pix push French B.O. to record high

PARIS — The French box office broke a 20-year streak in February as homegrown movies topped Hollywood product for the month.

Having been dominated by U.S. imports last year, French cinema got its revenge, claiming a staggering 60% of the box office — 14 million out of 25 million ticket sales.

Admissions were up a whopping 42% on the same month last year, France’s Centre National de la Cinematographie said Thursday.

“While February is traditionally one of the best periods of the year for cinema attendance,” the CNC said in a statement, “this is a record that hasn’t been reached for more than 20 years.”

The massive success of “all-you-can-see” cinema passes, launched last year by UGC and Gaumont, helped fuel the audience upsurge.

French trio dominate

But three films are largely responsible for the outstanding performance of local product.

First to hit French screens was Francis Veber’s Gaumont-backed comedy “The Closet,” which has racked up $24 million in six weeks and is still in the box office top 10.

Then came the Studio Canal-backed action thriller “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” by Christophe Gans, which topped its Hollywood competition. It has taken $23.4 million at last count.

The biggest French hit of all has been “La verite si je mens 2” (Would I Lie to You 2), a buddy comedy set among Paris’ rag-trade community. Hollywood can console itself that at least co-producer Warner Bros. gets a share of the $30 million box office the film has generated since its release two weeks ago.

In 2000, the market share of French films dipped below 30%, while U.S. fare enjoyed a 66% market share.

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