French box office rises 6%

Local films take 47% share of admissions

Thanks to megahit “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis,” Gallic films bested U.S. movies in France last year and cinema admissions rose an eye-catching 6.2% to 188.8 million.

With ticket prices holding in 2008, total box office gross was up 6% to about E1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) in euro terms.

However, thanks to the dollar’s rally against the euro in December, French B.O. is roughly on a par with 2007 in dollar terms.

Gallic films nabbed 86.2 million ducats for a 46.7% market share; U.S. movies saw 84 million admissions, down 3.6% from 2007, for 44.5%, according to figures released Wednesday by the Centre National de la Cinematographie.

Dany Boon’s “Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis” took $210.5 million in France from 20.4 million admissions, a record for a local film.

Gaul’s 6% B.O. bump, after an O.K. 2007, reps the biggest surge in Europe’s “Big Five” territories — the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Spain — for 2008.

Hollywood had a so-so year in Gaul.

Paramount released three of the top four U.S. pics: “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” ($38.8 million), “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” ($34 million) and “Kung Fu Panda” ($26.1 million). Sony’s “Quantum of Solace” grossed $30.1 million.

In 2007, five U.S. films bettered the “Madagascar” sequel’s haul.

“Piracy is a major issue and appears to be getting worse. But, far more important to me, the overall market grew: People continue to go see movies,” said Paramount Pictures Intl. prexy Andrew Cripps.