French theaters draw older crowd

Fiftysomethings head to the movies

Older Gauls are going to the cinema more often.

Some 56% of French fiftysomethings caught a film at a Gallic theater in 2008, vs. 50% in 2007.

The attendance rate of folks age 50-59 is catching up with that of other demos in France: Last year, 63% of French people age 6 or above went to the cinema at least once a year, according to a report, “75000 Cinema,” published Tuesday by Paris-based audience research company Mediametrie.

Some 48% of over-60s also caught one movie or more at a cinema last year, up from 40% in 2007 and just 29% in 2000.

The French place high importance on catching films at theaters. At 188.8 million, France saw the highest cinema attendance in Europe. And Gauls aren’t giving up filmgoing as they get older.

In contrast, and more worryingly, cinema attendance among the 6-19 age group remained stable in 2008, despite it being a standout year for cinemagoing in France.

Mediametrie explains high attendance last year in part to “the ‘anti-depressant’ role of cinema in times of crisis.”

Some things hardly change in France, however.

Some 24% of frequent film spectators and 27% of cinemaphiles belong to higher socioeconomic groups, which rep just 20% of France’s population.

That could help to explain wider acceptance in France than the rest of Western European for art films in general and foreign films targeting relatively sophisticated auds, including breakout U.S. hits, such as Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” which scored a remarkable $10.9 million in Gaul last year, and James Gray’s “Two Lovers” ($6.3 million).

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