‘Vive la France!’: local films dominate charts

Six of the top 10 films were local movies

The theme for this year’s box office in Gaul could be described as “Vive la France!” Six out of the top 10 — including the No. 1 — earners were local pics, with the rest hailing from the U.S.

Overall, Gaul looks set to book a significant rise in ticket sales, with receipts through November up 10.4% to 168 million, compared with a weak 2005. Multiplying the admissions by the average price of a ticket, $6.38, produces an approximate box office of $1.07 billion for that period.

And in the 12-month period between November 2005 and November 2006, ticket sales jumped 11.3% to 191 million. Equivalent to a box office of about $1.22 billion.

For the rest of Europe, however, it wasn’t the best year at the French box office. Only two films from other Euro territories made it on the top 50 list: Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” which came in at No. 13 and grossed $17.7 million, and “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer,” which ranked 41 and pocketed $7.12 million.

But for the Gallic film industry it was sunny skies. Topping the list was long-awaited third installment of the “Les Bronzes” franchise. “Les Bronzes 3: Friends for Life,” a laffer that reunited the now-aging cast from the first two cult films, grossed $80.4 million in the 14 weeks it played here.

The other French flicks to make the top 10 were laffer “Camping,” “Je vous trouve tres beau,” surprise hit “Prete-moi ta main,” “The Valet” and Cannes winner “Days of Glory.”

The success of local pics in 2006 compares with a much weaker 2005 for the French industry when only one film, “Brice de Nice,” made it into the top 10. Ditto for 2004, when only two Gallic offerings made the cut.

Pics that seemed to book the best returns this year were the family comedies, like “Les Bronzes 3” and “Camping,” both of which celebrate the tacky vacations of the average French Joe.

Some of the local pics that delivered disappointing results included animated flick “Azur and Asmar” and “L’Ivresse du pouvoir.” Michel Ocelot’s “Azur and Asmar” wasn’t the wild success that exhibs had hoped for, after the strong showing by the helmer’s previous kiddie flick “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts.”

Pic came in at 28 on the list with $7.6 million on 1.29 million tickets sold. “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts,” on the other hand, sold 1.85 million tickets here through February 2006. While the perf doesn’t qualify as a flop, bookers were hoping the animated family film, a genre that has been a consistent money-maker over the past few years, would have shone more brightly.