Bigger-budget films compete well vs. Hollywood fare

While a slew of Hollywood 3D tentpoles bombarded French screens over the first half of 2010, local pics managed to pull high numbers at the B.O., keeping Gaul’s local market share fairly stable, at 38.5 %.

The biggest French releases ranged widely in terms of genres, in contrast with last year’s first half, which was dominated by comedies.

A handful of mainstream laffers did do well, including the critically bashed “Camping 2.” But there were also some surprise hits from first-timers: Romain Duris-starrer “Heartbreaker” a Hollywood-esque romantic comedy co-produced by UPI; and “All That Glitters,” a female-skewed dramedy.

Overall, pics that performed best at the B.O. had budgets significantly higher than average French films, noted Serge Siritzky, editor of French trade magazine Ecran Total, pointing to WWII drama “The Roundup,” deep sea docu “Oceans” and Luc Besson’s “The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc Sec.”

According to Benoit Danard, CNC’s head of studies and statistics, French cinema contributed to a 9% jump in theater admission in the first half of 2010.

Through June 30, the top four Gallic pics grossed E80.5 million, ($102.6 million) a 45% jump from 2009’s first half, per the FNCF, the French Exhibitors Convention.

“These films were highly successful because they reached wide audiences all across France — not just in big cities but also in rural areas,” explained FNCF’s Marc-Olivier Sebbag.

Upcoming anticipated French releases include “L’Age de raison,” a self-discovery dramedy toplined by Sophie Marceau. Pic, which was optioned for a U.S. remake in Cannes, could be the next “LOL,” last year’s Gallic sleeper hit.

Besson’s EuropaCorp also has a promising fall lineup with thesp-turned-helmer Guillaume Canet’s “Little White Lies,” starring Marion Cotillard along with other popular French thesps, and Romain Duris-player “The Big Picture” penned by U.S. novelist Douglas Kennedy, as well as Besson’s “Arthur and the Two Worlds War.”

Xavier Beauvois’ Cannes Grand Jury prize-winning pic “Of Gods and Men,” which has been highly praised by local and international critics, is well-positioned to be a holiday-season success when it bows in December.

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