French pics drive admissions

PARIS — French cinemas notched up 183 million ticket sales in 2001, up 10% and the best year since 1984, according to estimates released by Gallic exhibs Wednesday.

Despite a twin-pronged end-of-year offensive by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Lord of the Rings,” a flurry of French hits drove the box office hike, with 21 local movies achieving more than 1 million ticket sales, compared with just 6 pics in 2000.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie” was the biggest grossing film of the year with 8.2 million admissions, closely followed by “La Verite Si Je Mens 2,” a sequel to the buddy comedy “Would I Lie To You?,” with ticket sales of 7.9 million.

At 6.6 million admissions by Dec. 31, the third-placed “Harry Potter” was the only U.S. film in the top five, ahead of Francis Veber’s “The Closet” with 5.3 million and Christophe Gans’s “Brotherhood of the Wolf” with 5.2 million.

Although final figures are yet to come, French cinema is widely expected to have upped its market share by a quarter to more than 40%, while the U.S. slice of the Gallic exhibition pie shrank from more than 60% to just above 50%.

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