Hollywood Rules French Box Office in 2015

Majors Post Biggest Market Share in a Decade

Star Wars The Force Awakens
Courtesy of Disney

PARIS – Propelled by “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “Minions” and “Jurassic World” – the same B.O. juggernauts that are pushing European box office to record (Germany) or standout (U.K., Spain) 2015 results – Hollywood punched its best results this decade in France, with U.S. movies taking a 54.5% market share for 2015, France’s CNC state film/TV board announced Thursday.

Results comes after four years when, save for 2013, the biggest box office narrative has been the rise of the French blockbuster in France, exemplified by “The Intouchables” and “Bad (Serial) Weddings.” In 2015, it was Hollywood’s and “Star Wars” year, however, though “Minions,” the French could point out, was animated in France and the characters the creation of France’s Pierre Coffin.

Total tix sold in France – 206 million (about $1.5 billion at current dollar conversion rates )– was 1.4% down on 2014, but above the 199.6 million average for the last 10 years. Though below the modern high of 217 million in 2011, it is the fourth best result in ticket sales in modern times after 2010, 2011 and 2014.

Based on admissions, France saw more cinema visits than any other country in Europe, the CNC announced Thursday.

“For the second year in a row, France’s cinema theaters attracted more than 200 million spectators, a strong sign of vitality,” said CNC president Frederique Bredin. “France has Europe’s biggest screen park and is a great nation of film buffs.”

“Star Wars’” stunning U.K. take of $115.9 million may mean that the U.K. shades France as the biggest film market in Europe in terms of gross box office and third biggest in the world in 2015, unless Japan posts a bumper 2015. France ranked No. 3 in the world in 2014 with a total $1.77 billion gross box office, per the European Audiovisual Observatory.

Cruising at $56 million and 6.8 million tix sold in France through Dec. 29, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens’” fourth best result in any world market, Disney’s “The Force” was France’s No. 1 movie of 2015. It also drove France to the second biggest monthly box office result – 24.9 million spectators – since monthly records began in 1980. In two weeks, J.J. Abrams’ barnstormer overhauled “Minions” (6.4 million admissions). Grossing one third of its total B.O, take in 2014, France’s “La Famille Belier” (5.2 million tix sold in 2015) placed third, per Rentrak France, ahead of “Jurassic World” (5.1 million) and Sony’s “Spectre” (4.8 million), per box office site CBO-boxoffice.com.  The last year three U.S. movies punched five million or more admissions in France was in 2007.

In 2014, in an exceptional year for Gallic fare, three French movies topped France’s 2014 charts, led by two huge comedy breakouts: “Serial (Bad) Weddings” and Dany Boon’s “Superchondriac,” then Luc Besson’s “Lucy.”

One year later, 15 French movies punched over one millions admissions (about $7.0 million B.O.) in France. 10 of them were comedies, which is where – for better or worse – the money seems to be increasingly in France.

But the best French performer, Pathe comedy “The New Adventures of Aladdin,” starring the highly bankable 24-year-old French stand-up comic Kev Adams, hit just 4.4 million in tix sales, just over one third of “Bad (Serial) Weddings” B.O. take. French films’ market share, just 1.1 percentage points below the U.S. in 2014, slumped to 35.2% in 2015, having passed 40% five times in the last decade and twice – in 2006 and 2008 – bested American fare in France.

“French production seems to have some kind of a “bi-annual” pattern, like ‘tides.’ French movies usually make big hits every other year,” said Eric Marti, at Rentrak France.

He added: “That was not the case in 2013 and U.S. movies saw a high market share. But it was the case in 2014 (and U.S. production was weaker) and French films’ market share was high. Again in 2015, French production was not as successful in terms of big hits and U.S. films took advantage. If you add to this a very big American title – ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens” – that explains it all without looking for more complex reasons.”

Per Rentrak France, attendance in Paris and its suburbs was 6% down on 2014, affected by January 2015’s Charlie Hebdo slaughter and the further terrorist attacks in November. As Rentrak France observes, high-profile French titles at Cannes performed very well. Best Actor winner (for Vincent Lindon) “The Measure of a Man” sold 963,833 tickets (about $6.8 million by Variety calculations), Studiocanal’s “Mon Roi,” Cannes’ Best Actress laureat (for Emmanuelle Bercot) earned about $5.2 million. Opener “Standing Tall” ran up 708, 422 admissions (about $5 million) for Wild Bunch Distribution. The Palme d’Or winner, “Deephan,” grossed around $4.9 million for UGC Distribution.