Gaumont Scores Big With Gallienne’s ‘Mum’

Gallienne's promising directorial debut had one 2013's highest-grossing B.O. bows

Me Myself and Mum Cannes Guillaume

Highly anticipated since its triumphant Directors’ Fortnight world premiere, Gaumont’s “Me, Myself and Mum” (“Les Garcons et Guillaume, a table!”), a comedy helmed by first-timer Guillaume Gallienne, has scored one of the highest-grossing opening day for a French movie in 2013.

Budgeted under 10 million Euros ($13 million), “Mum” was released on Nov. 20 by Gaumont across 406 screens in France and grossed an estimated $590K from 69,342 tickets sold.

Pic was produced by Jean-Baptiste Dupont and Cyril Colbeau-Justin at LGM and Edouard Weil at Reclangle Prods.

A directorial debut with an unlikely pitch and no bankable stars, “Mum” started out as an arthouse film, premiering at Directors’ Fortnight, under Edouard Waintrop’s artistic direction, and rolled out with critical acclaim and two kudos. The first-day results now underscore its potential to cross over to mainstream auds.

Even if “Mum” doesn’t end up in pole position at Gaul’s box office, it has a shot at becoming the year’s most profitable French-language movie. Gaumont has pre-sold it to over 20 territories, including Germany (Concorde), Spain (A Contracorriente),  Italy (Eagle), Canada (Christal) and South Korea (Pan Cinema), and is negotiations to close further deals in key markets. “Mum” has also drawn interest from North American festivals, notably Tribeca and Palm Springs.

Popular on Variety

The bigscreen makeover of Gallienne’s eponymous stage show, “Mum” is a left-of-field, playful comedy with heart portraying the director’s childhood overshadowed by a cherished mother who assumes that he’s gay. Gallienne plays himself as a child and schoolboy as well as limning his mother. The stage show is being adapted in Russia and had a good run in Spain.

“Juggling laughter, pity and poignancy throughout, (“Mum”) is all cleverly constructed to misdirect expectations, allowing Gallienne to blindside us with the surprising way the story turned out, while paying tribute to the idea of mothers everywhere,” wrote Variety’s chief intl. film critic Peter Debruge.

“The early success of this performance-driven film shows that French audiences and international distributors are in demand for smart comedies that are non-traditional and are eager to discover fresh talent beyond the fixtures of mainstream French (laffers),” said Gaumont Intl. topper Cecile Gaget.

In a year marked by the lack of local B.O. hits, Gallienne’s pic has sparked a glimpse of hope among industryites. Homegrown movies have been steadily losing market share (31.5% as of Sept.) to Hollywood blockbusters since the beginning of the year, while the global B.O has fallen 9.2% to an estimated $1.38 billion over the last 12 months.

The highest-grossing Gallic pic so far is “Les Profs,” a lowbrow comedy based on a graphic novel that took an estimated $32.4 million.

The year’s second top-grosser is the comicbook-based family film “Boule & Bill,” another pic produced by thriving prod shingle LGM. It earned an estimated $16.3 million, taking the 19th slot at the B.O..

If “Mum” continues to perform well in France, it will firm up Francois Clerc’s reputation as a top-notched marketing expert, with hits like “Intouchables” and “Porn In The Hood,” another low-budget comedy, under his belt.

Although Gallienne starred “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia” and a few other mainstream movies, he’s mostly known as a stage thesp. He will next topline in Jalil Lespert’s anticipated “Yves Saint Laurent” as Pierre Berge, the famed fashion designer’s lover and collaborator; and is already working on his sophomore outing.

Under the leadership of chairman Sidonie Dumas and vice CEO Christophe Riandee, the 118-year-old company made a comeback in 2011 with “Intouchables,” and continues to prove, through pics like “Mum,” its ability to identify promising new filmmakers and develop daring, tightly-budgeted French-language films  that deliver commercially. Dumas also works closely with Gaget to foster new talent and find projects with international potential.