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‘Mum’ Proves to Be 2013’s Surprise Local Hit in France

Comedy is one of the few profitable French-language films released this year

PARIS — In a tough year for French cinema, Guillaume Gallienne’s crowdpleaser “Me, Myself and Mum” keeps delivering at the local B.O., grossing an estimated $13.8 million as of Dec.10 since its Nov. 20 bow.

Faced with a tsunami of such Hollywood heavyweights as Disney’s “Frozen” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “Mum” has sustained the No. 4 position on the box office chart — right after Christian Bale starrer “Out of the Furnace” — among recent film releases over the last few weeks.

In light of the film’s strong word-of-mouth and early theatrical performance, Gaumont, the pic’s co-producer, distributor and sales agent, has treated film like a local blockbuster, rolling it out on 406 screens .

“Mum” was produced by Jean-Baptiste Dupont and Cyril Colbeau-Justin at LGM Cinema and Edouard Weil at Rectangle Prods. for under $10 million. It made its world premiere at at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight and earned positive reviews. It has sold to more than 20 territories.

The  autobiographical tale explores the awkward upbringing of Gallienne, who was raised by his domineering mother as the daughter she never had, which caused him to experience some sexual identity confusion.

A popular stage actor, Gallienne, who plays himself and his mom in the film, has been described as a curly-haired version of Tony Hale by Variety’s chief international film critic Peter Debruge.

Although “Mum” is based on Gallienne’s successful one-man show, it was a gamble for Gaumont, the studio behind “Intouchables.” The Paris-based company boarded the pic at script stage.

France’s film biz has just been shaken by a story published on Dec. 8 in Le Journal du Dimanche, which revealed details on a report conducted by France’s audit court. It stated that the French film and TV industry received $2.2 billion in public funds in 2012, while it delivered too few moneymaking films.

“Mum” is one of this year’s rare profitable French-language films. Through November, the market share of homegrown movies fell to 33.2% (compared with 42% in 2012) and the B.O. dropped 9.5% with 190 million tickets sold.

The other surprise hit of the last quarter is Wild Bunch’s black comedy “Nine-Month Stretch” (Neuf mois ferme) directed by Albert Dupontel.  It grossed an estimated $17 million as of Dec. 1.

Like “Mum,” the modestly-budgeted “Nine-Month” — about an uptight court judge (Sandrine Kimberlain) who’s having a baby with a serial killer – is more of a performance-driven, arthouse comedy than an average mainstream French laffer.

EuropaCorp’s “La Marche,” Nabil Ben Yadir’s film chronicling a cross-country demonstration against racism, has grossed an estimated $1.38 million since its Nov. 27 bow, an underwhelming performance considering its heavy marketing campaign.

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