French pics pull punters abroad

'Amelie' helps B.O. climb to $206 mil

PARIS — Movies like Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie” helped overseas B.O. for Gallic lingo fare soar to a record high in 2001 — and this year promises more of the same, it was predicted Sept. 5.

In 2001, French films grossed a total $206.2 million abroad, twice as much as they made the previous year. And in the first seven months of 2002, foreign B.O. had already reached $157.4. million.

When French-backed English and other lingo productions are included, $357.1 million – 45% of France’s total B.O. in 2001 – came from abroad.

Presenting the figures in Paris, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, head of the promotional body Unifrance boasted: “I think we’ll soon see the day – maybe this year, next year or the year after – when French films earn more abroad than they do in France, like American films.”

The Unifrance topper stressed that “Amelie” – which has grossed a total $173.4 million worldwide – was not solely responsible for the foreign B.O. hike.

A second tier of pics also found success beyond France’s borders. They range from movies aimed at a younger audience than traditional French fare such as “Crimson Rivers,” “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” “Taxi 2,” and this year’s “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” to Francis Veber’s hit comedy “The Closet.”

“In the past, France had one success a year – now there are twenty,” said Toscan du Plantier.

Other European countries, headed by Italy, made up 64% of foreign ticket sales with the U.S. accounting for 19%.

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