Recent hits make up for poor first quarter

After breaking revenue records in 2010, the Gallic box office has remained stable this year, bolstered by a slew of high-performing local pics released this fall, notably Maiwenn’s “Polisse,” Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Artist,” starring Jean Dujardin, and Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s “Intouchables.”

Some 166.8 millions tickets have been sold so far this year, grossing approximately €1.15 billion ($1.56 billion), down 0.9% on Jan.-Oct. 2010.

The second half of the year was marked by strong perfs from local films, many of which were Cannes standouts. “The Artist,” which will be released by TWC Stateside on Nov. 23, grossed $11.23 million; “Polisse” has taken $14.4 million; and Bibo Bergeron’s retro toon, “A Monster in Paris,” has taken $12.09 million.

“Intouchables” is a surprise hit. With a $12.9 million budget and a cast featuring one major French star, Francois Cluzet, and up-an-comer, Omar Sy, the pic has taken the B.O. by storm, grossing $18.8 million in just two weeks.

An uplifting tale, “Intouchables” is based on the true story of an aristocrat man who became a quadriplegic after an accident and hired a younger man from the projects to take care of him. “Intouchables” was produced by Quad Films, the shingle behind Pascal Chaumeil’s “Heartbreaker,” and was released by Gaumont on 500 copies.

“Our strategy was simple: We decided to show ‘Intouchables’ as much as possible before its release to generate word-of-mouth because we knew we had a beautiful, rare and moving film in our hands,” said Gaumont CEO Sidonie Dumas. “We also spent a long time promoting it in suburbs and provincial towns.”

Acquired by TWC for U.S. remake rights and U.S. distribution, “Untouchables” is sold out worldwide, per Yohann Comte, Gaumont’s international sales manager. Comte and Cecile Gaget, the company’s international sales prexy, shopped the pic at the AFM and is closing the last territories, including Japan.

Marc-Olivier Sebbag of FNCF, the French exhibitors’ org, says the strong results of French films in recent months makes up for the weak performances of local titles in the first half.

“From January to October, the market share of local films was 35.6%, so it’s still below the average 37% (based on the last decade’s ticket sales reports),” he said.

American pics took a 50.6% share — up 1.5% on last year.

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” took the second, third and fourth slots, respectively, in 2011′s rankings.

Released two weeks ago, “Tintin” fired up the B.O., taking an estimated $41.5 million through Nov. 8.

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