“Nightcrawler” marks the first acquisition of Paris-based Selective Films, the outfit launched by former Wild Bunch Distribution Jean-Philippe Tirel and his partner, the producer Maya Hariri (“Under the Bombs”).
Selective co-acquired the movie at script stage last year with its partner Orange Studios and got Paramount France on board to distribute it in Gaul.
“Nightcrawler,” which stars Gyllenhaal as a Los Angeles denizen who takes pleasure in shooting gritty crimes to feed news networks and make ends meet, has grossed approximately $1.5 million from 187,000 admissions in France since opening Nov. 26 on 255 screens.
Compared with other Nov. 26 releases, the pic — titled “Night Call” in France — ranks second behind the franchise-based toon feature “Asterix, The Mansions of the God.” It beat out Michel Hazanavicius’ “The Search,” the helmer’s follow-up to Oscar-winning film “The Artist,” Jean-Jacques Zilbermann’s 1960-set drama “A la vie” and Michael Cuesta’s “Kill the Messenger.”
France is so far “Nightcrawler’s” strongest European territory — emphasizing the appetite of Gallic audiences for daring, engaging U.S. indies that are character-driven and touch on contemporary political and/or social issues.
Other U.S. independent movies that achieved a similar score as “Nightcrawler” in their opening week in France include James Gray’s “We Own the Night” and “The Place Beyond the Pines” with Ryan Gosling.
The Gallic market has nevertheless proven difficult to break into for many high-profile indies due to the high turnover rate of new releases in theaters and the strength of local pics. “Dallas Buyers Club,” for instance, took only $690,000 in its first week.
Romain Daubeach, Selective Films’ acquisition and marketing topper, said the company “leveraged the critical success of the movie in France, where reviewers have compared it with ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘The Night of the Hunter’ and have talked up Gyllenhaal’s Oscar-worthy performance.”
Selective enlisted such premium sponsors as the paybox giant Canal Plus and the radio station France Inter to target upper-class, cinephile audiences.
The company also came up with an edgy new poster recalling that of “Drive” (pictured above) to lure younger audiences and position the movie as a male-skewing action-thriller, added Daubeach.
Paramount orchestrated a vast online campaign, rolling out the movie trailer on YouTube and Dailymotion, among other Web platforms.
A marketing expert, Tirel has a track record in distributing U.S. indies in France. While at Wild Bunch, he notably handled the release of “The King’s Speech” and “Paranormal Activity” and managed to pull off Europe’s best B.O. performances for both.