Lelouch takes unique approach to pic push

PARIS — Cinemagoers all over France turned out for a free screening Friday night of Claude Lelouch’s latest pic, “The Parisians,” paid for out of the vet helmer’s own pocket.

Lelouch organized the screening at 400 theaters in response to pic’s disappointing bow Wednesday, when it garnered fewer than 17,000 admissions, which Lelouch blamed on hostile critics.

But Lelouch’s tactic, which cost him $200,000, had only limited success.

Among the gibes, Liberation called the pic “pathetic,” while Le Monde said it was “indigestible” and described the director of the Oscar-winning “A Man and a Woman” as “a filmmaker who has had his hour of glory and today has been cast aside.”

In its first five days through Sunday, the comedy about the lives and loves of a set of Parisians notched up just 110,000 admissions nationwide, including the 40,000 to 50,000 who saw the pic free.

In Paris and the suburbs, the pic garnered 32,404 admissions on 40 screens for a fifth-place finish, way behind leader “The Terminal,” which collected 110,804 on 48. Pic couldn’t even beat the second weekend of “Catwoman,” which did 38,701 on 37.

Lelouch has much riding on “The Parisians,” the first episode in a $30 million trilogy called “Humankind.”

Just before shooting last year, Lelouch told Daily Variety it was a project he had been working on for more than 30 years, and that it would be based on his observations of human behavior. He is the sole producer, via his company Les Films 13, and he created a distribution structure to release it in France himself.

After Friday, Lelouch declared himself victorious over the crix. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a popular uprising, it’s Bastille day,” he enthused.

He was more subdued by the numbers on Monday but refused to give up hope. “It will take three or four days before the impact of Friday’s screening is felt. Word of mouth takes a long time to get established,” he said. “Let’s see the full week’s results before drawing any conclusions.”

(Don Groves contributed to this report.)

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