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France: Local pics flourish

AFM Territory Report

While the independent market continues to shrink abroad, France remains a vibrant territory for local and foreign indie pics.

Wild Bunch Distribution has thrived with two director-driven pics that turned into sleeper hits: Bertrand Blier’s cancer-themed comedy “The Clink of Ice” and Gregg Araki’s sci-fi laffer “Kaboom.”

“Hollywood pictures are becoming increasingly formatted, and French audiences seem to be more and more interested in films with singular and unusual concepts,” explains Jean-Philippe Tirel, topper at Wild Bunch Distribution.

But the year’s biggest surprise hit has been Cannes’ Jury Prize winner “Of Gods and Men,” a modestly budgeted tale of French monks who were killed in Algeria during a post-colonial strife.

Released by Mars Distribution, Xavier Beauvois’ pic topped the Gallic B.O. four weeks in a row, taking $15.5 million as of Oct. 9.

“We come in very early on, sometimes even before script stage, and when we take a director-driven film we make sure it has a strong crossover appeal,” says Mars Distribution topper Stephane Celerier.

Most popular indies were concept-driven pics — including SND’s “New Moon” and EuropaCorp’s “Adele Blanc Sec” — handled by Gaul’s highly capitalized distribution outfits Pathe, EuropaCorp, Studio Canal and SND.

So far this year, Pathe has fared best among local distribs with four wide-ranging films, from mainstream laffer “Camping” to girl-skewed dramedy “All That Glitters.”

Highlights

Top 2010 indie film: “Camping,” $33.4 million (Pathe)

Recent pickups: “Submarine,” Mars Distribution; “The King’s Speech,” Wild Bunch Distribution; “Free Men,” Pyramide Distribution; “Scream 4,” SND

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