You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Champs Elysees Film Fest Showcases American Pics in France

Yank Fare Boosts Gallic Box Office

France, the land that coined the term “auteur,” is a welcoming market for U.S. arthouse fare. There’s even an event — the Champs-Elysees Film Festival, soon to unspool its second edition along the grand boulevard of the same name — dedicated to promoting American indie films in France.

As can be expected, American studio pics still dominate. Last year, a mix of releases from the majors — Sony’s “Skyfall,” Fox’s “Ice Age: Continental Drift 3D” — and mainstream local comedies dominated Gallic B.O. At 42.7%, U.S. movies’ market share just edged French movies’ 40.3%, per France’s CNC film board.

But some low- to mid-budget American arthouse and niche movies also caught box office fire, thanks often to local distribs, which handled 69% of U.S. films releases, according to figures from the CBO box office tracking service.

Distributor Arp Selection scored well with both Margin Call and Beasts of the Southern Wild; Detachment boosted the bottom line for Pretty Pictures; and Ad Vitam profited from Take Shelter.

“French audiences like American auteurs because they are not identified with big studio films,” says producer-distributor Sophie Dulac, director of the fest. “American independent films are sometimes financed with few resources even if they have a known cast, and French audiences can empathize with characters or situations.”

Popular on Variety

Detachment proved Pretty Pictures’ fourth-best release ever, though topper James Velaise qualifies its success. “Considering ever-increasing P&A spend, the numbers aren’t huge. That’s what sales agents and producers sometimes don’t fully understand,” he says.

France is a significant but not huge market for indie fare, repping “less than 10% of income worldwide on our features,” says sales agent Matteo Lovadina at Reel Suspects, whose Cannes lineup included Becky Smith’s comedy 16 to Life and documentary The Matador.

Amel Lacombe, owner of Paris distrib Eurozoom, recently acquired “Glee” star Chris Colfer’s vehicle “Struck by Lightning” and black comedy “Girl Most Likely” (pictured), starring Kristen Wiig. The two bookend the Champs-Elysees event.

Exhibition still reps most U.S. indie films’ returns in France, Lacombe says. “If theatrical clicks, that increases DVD and TV sales.” But as in other Euro territories, TV sales of U.S. fare are challenging given quotas for TV operators’ movie acquisitions.

“This makes minimum guarantees and P&A investment far more risky,” Lacombe says.

On the upside, from 2005 through 2012, the number of American films broadcast in France’s free-to-air TV market grew 62%, goosed by digital TV services. Last year, 31% of films programmed by leading paybox Canal Plus were American.

However, “VOD is the best way to exploit our U.S. arthouse indie features,” Lovadina says.

“There’s a ready-made audience for U.S. arthouse movies: VOD will be the solution,” says producer Gregory Bernard, who recently launched Paris-based Realitism Distribution to acquire international indie pics.

French release windows are, however, dictated by strict governmental regulation. “Day-and-date releases are illegal. We need to be more flexible,” Pretty Pictures’ Velaise says.

Elsa Keslassy contributed to this report.

More Film

  • Imogen Poots

    'Black Christmas' Star Imogen Poots on Why Male Horror Fans Should See Slasher Remake

    “Black Christmas” is the second remake of the 1974 slasher classic, which centers on a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown murderer. While the original had the female protagonists (SPOILER) offed, in this one, the women fight back. “It’s been called a re-imagining of the original, and I think, in ways that the [...]

  • Imogen Poots as Riley in "Black

    'Black Christmas': Film Review

    “Black Christmas,” a low-budget Canadian horror movie released in 1974, was a slasher thriller with a difference: It was the very first one! Okay, there were more than a few precedents, from “Psycho” (the great-granddaddy of the genre) to “The Last House on the Left” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” to Mario Bava’s “A [...]

  • David Benioff, D.B. Weiss. Creators and

    'Game of Thrones' Creators to Develop H.P. Lovecraft Movie at Warner Bros.

    Following their exit from the “Star Wars” universe, “Game of Thrones” co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have found their replacement pic, signing on to produce an untitled thriller based on the graphic novel “Lovecraft” for Warner Bros. It is unknown if they will also direct the project, but they’ve already set Phil Hay and [...]

  • Little Women Greta Gerwig BTS

    Greta Gerwig and 'Little Women' Crew Mix Modern and Classical

    Greta Gerwig wrote and directed Sony’s “Little Women,” a new look at Louisa May Alcott’s much-loved 19th-century classic. Eager to pay tribute to her artisan colleagues, Gerwig says, “It was a joy for me to work with all these people. It’s a movie that’s impossible to create without world-class artists. They killed themselves for me!” [...]

  • Honey Boy

    Shia LaBeouf's 'Honey Boy' Adds Unusual Twist to Oscar's History With Kids

    Hollywood has made many terrific films about childhood, and many about filmmaking. Amazon’s “Honey Boy,” which opened Nov. 8, combines the two: A movie with a child’s POV of the industry. That unique angle could be a real benefit during awards season, and the film’s backstory — with Shia LaBeouf as the main attraction — will [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content