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French films close gap on U.S. fare

Local movies grab 44% of admissions in France

French films closed the gap on Hollywood in the first 11 months of this year, grabbing a 44% share of the local box office, up from 38% in the same period last year, while U.S. fare dipped 1.2% to a 46% share.

Overall admissions were up 10.4% to 167.5 million, according to figures released Wednesday by the Centre National de la Cinematographie. That’s worth $1.4 billion at the box office.

French pics took six of the top 10 box office slots, garnering among them 29 million admissions ($211 million), while four U.S. films trailed with 20 million admissions ($147 million).

“Friends Forever,” sequel to cult pic “Les Bronzes,” will probably end the year as France’s biggest B.O. earner, with 10.4 million admissions ($76 million), but behind it are a run of Gallic hits: laffer “Camping,” rural romance “You Are So Handsome,” romantic comedy “Prete-moi ta main,” the Francis Veber-helmed “The Valet” and WWII-set “Days of Glory,” Algeria’s Oscar candidate.

Virtually tied for top-performing U.S. film were “Ice Age: The Meltdown” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” with about 6.6 million admissions ($42.1 million) apiece, followed by “The Da Vinci Code” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

A Gallic film, Luc Besson’s “Arthur,” will be battling it out with Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet” and Fox’s “Eragon” for the bulk of the holiday-season biz in France.