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French theaters struggle on

Strikes nibble at takings

PARIS — The French strikes had a mixed impact on players within the entertainment biz this week.

Despite the gridlocked streets and public transit paralysis, the French box office only suffered a 2.2% audience drop from 2,415,753 to 2,361,753 Nov. 14-20, compared with the previous week. Having braced for far worse, this repped a drop for distribs from $21.31 million to $20.83 million

“Distributors were expecting much worse, and I can’t really offer you an explanation as to why things weren’t,” said marketing director Henry Hamelle of SND Films. “Business was down last week in city center cinemas, but we have been pleased with returns from more residential areas,” said Eric Lagesse, distribution director at Pyramide, referring to the generally strong perf of thriller “The Edge of Heaven.”

“It’s possible that some people working in city centers are going to the cinema in order to avoid the evening rush hour congestion,” said Sebastian Chenrad, marketing and promotion director for Metropolitan Filmexport, French distributors for two of the best current performers in the French box office, “Saw IV” and “Eastern Promises.”

Live performances, however, have been far more severely effected. Prodiss, a promotional agency whose clients include some of the biggest concert halls in France, said at least 5% of all live shows were cancelled Nov. 13-19. Paris’s Opera Garnier has cancelled 13 performances since various French entertainment unions first launched protests on Oct. 18, at a cost of more than $4 million. After the Nov. 14 cancellation of its Christmas season debut, “The Nutcracker,” was finally performed to a half-empty house on Nov. 19, without either costumes or full stage lighting.

The Garnier’s 1,680 permanent staff enjoy a unique pension scheme, introduced by Louis XIV in 1698.

Smaller independent promoters have had mixed fortunes. “Big concerts that are sold out weeks in advance may end up with a few empty seats, but the unused tickets have been paid for and this doesn’t greatly effect the gate,” said Paris-based music and stand-up comedy promoter Karel Beer. “For my recent concert with (Grammy-winner) Lucinda Williams, while we had considerable advanced ticket sales through agencies, once the strike was announced there was a sharp drop off in bookings. For my concerts, I can normally expect 30% to 40% of tickets to be sold during the week prior to the concert. This was not the case with Lucinda.”

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