Gallic films gross $1.2 billion outside France

PARIS

Beating all previous records, French films grossed €873 ($1.2 billion) outside the country in 2012, driven by three box office freight trains: “Taken 2,” “The Intouchables” and “The Artist.”

Luc Besson’s English-language actioner “Taken 2,” starring Liam Neeson, powered to $355 million abroad, the highest figure ever for a French film outside France. It was released by Fox Stateside and in most international territories.

“Intouchables,” an across-the-tracks dramedy, punched $269 million, the best result at foreign theaters for a French-language movie.

“The Artist,” an homage to Hollywood’s silent movies, danced to $102 million and five Oscars, including best picture.

What was also encouraging about France’s 2012 international box office, unveiled Friday by promo org Unifrance at its Paris Rendez-vous with French Cinema, was the large spread in the types of movies pulling in creditable B.O. perfs abroad.

Top-earners included comedies — “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia” ($28.5 million), “Houba: On the Trail of the Marsupilami” ($7.4 million) and “What’s in a Name” ($7.9 million) — and auteur dramas, such as Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” ($12.9 million), Michael Haneke’s “Amour” ($9.7 million, and counting), and Walter Salles’ “On the Road” ($7 million).

Also percolating high in the foreign B.O. charts are animated features, such as “A Monster in Paris” ($10.2 million), and sundry breakouts, led by senior citizen feel-good movie “All Together” ($7.1 million), with Jane Fonda once more speaking French.

Admissions in Western Europe rose 51% to 51.5 million tix sold, and those in North America by 45% to 32 million.

The U.S. and Germany were the two biggest markets for French films in 2012, with “Taken 2″ powering to $139 million and 14 French films hitting 100,000 admissions or more at Teuton turnstiles. In Germany, until very recently France’s key pre-sales market, French films need that theatrical power. A freeze through 2016 by German pubcasters ARD and ZDF on art-film acquisitions means that prices paid for most French films now depend on their theatrical and DVD value.

Up 136% to 15.8 million tix sold — getting on for half the size of the U.S. market — Latin America consolidated its status in 2012 as France’s star emerging market.

Rampant multiplexing in emerging markets favors big English-language films, including those produced by French companies, to the detriment of French-language arthouse gems.

Published much later this year, a report by the CNC French film board will look at returns to Gallic sales agents across all media.

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