The French determine ‘to continue their lives as freely as they can.’ said one exhibitor
Studiocanal asked French exhibitors Saturday to pull the movie “Bastille Day” from their theaters — not just ads for the film — following the truck attack in Nice that left 84 people dead and scores more injured.
The request came as France entered a three-day period of national mourning. The decision by Studiocanal appears to have been taken Saturday morning as media reports started to filter through that the Nice attack had been the work of someone inspired by the radical group Islamic State.
The company had initially just yanked ads for “Bastille Day” in France but left the decision whether to continue showing the film — which turns on a terrorist plot to bomb Paris — up to cinema chains. Most if not all appeared to have continued screening it on Friday night and early Saturday morning.
But Jocelyn Bouyssy, the director of CGR, which released “Bastille Day” in 35 cities on Wednesday, said Saturday that the multiplex chain would comply with Studiocanal’s request “out of respect.” Earlier, CGR had opted to continue showing the action movie, which stars British actor Idris Elba.
“We hesitated [over pulling] ‘Bastille Day.’ We decided to keep it because we haven’t received any complaints. The film’s narrative is very different from the attack that happened in Nice, and we’re showing many films with violence of all kinds,” Bouyssy said, adding: “If we start pulling violent movies because they show this or that we’re basically giving in. We must be strong and keep on living.”
“Bastille Day” had ranked ninth at CGR’s cinemas.
Despite the deadly attack in Nice, where crowds had gathered in the streets to celebrate the real Bastille Day, France’s box office dropped slightly but not dramatically Friday night, according to estimates by Comscore France.
Released Wednesday on 244 screens, “Bastille Day” was the No. 3 opener in France, behind “Ice Age: Collision Course” and French comedy “Debarquement Immediat!” (Last Call For Nowhere) from “Serial (Bad) Weddings” director Philippe de Chauveron, a title offer which contributed to a “very high” attendance Thursday evening, said Eric Marti, at Comscore France. The Nice terrorist attack did not hit the media until about 11 p.m. France time on Thursday night.
Friday’s total box office downtick was “not more than expected,” Marti said, adding that the only significant drop was in Nice, where one cinema closed and those that did stay open saw plunges in attendance from 50% to 80%. “Bastille Day” even played in Nice. “It showed the same sort of evolution as other movies,” Marti said.
The overall steady attendance contrasts with the dramatic drop in admissions in Paris after the coordinated terrorist attacks Nov. 13 that left 130 people dead, including 89 inside the Bataclan theater. The following evening, a Saturday, “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay Part 2” was about 50% down on “Mockingjay Part 1.” But French box-office recovered the following weekend to post a total performance in line with the equivalent weekend in 2014.
Unlike what happened after the violence in Paris, box office has not dropped at CGR cinemas since the Nice attack, said Bouyssy, who pointed out that security had been ramped up since November.
Although France has suffered three major terrorist attacks in 18 months, theater admissions in France this year have been the highest on record, 5.6% up through June from the same period in 2015, according to statistics from France’s CNC film board.
“I think people have realized we were at war and will be in a state of emergency for a while, so they’ve set off to continue their lives as freely as they can, even if they are being much more cautious,” Bouyssy said.
The Nice terrorist attack did have some impact on entertainment in France. A Rihanna concert was canceled. The Tour de France scrapped its habitual winners’ podium celebration after Friday’s stage of the race and instead had the five race leaders in different categories stand shoulder to shoulder onstage to observe a minute’s silence, with no sponsors or music.
Meanwhile, the five-day Nice Jazz Festival, which was due to start Saturday, was canceled. Created in 1948, the festival is a high-profile music event showcasing rock, pop, jazz, opera, world-music and electro concerts. Past guests have included such music legends as Louis Armstrong,Claude Lutter, Stéphane Grappelli, Django Reinhardt and Yves Montand. This year’s lineup was to feature Robert Plant, Youssou N’Dour and Avishai Cohen, among others.
This article was updated at 4:01 PST