PARIS — The Paris terror attacks that have stunned the world have also dealt a huge hit to cinemagoing in Paris. Bowing Wednesday, “The Hunger Games:- Mockingjay – Part 2” took a big hit in Paris, performing some 50% down in the French capital on “Part 1.”
But, as Paris pays respect to its 129 dead, the keynotes emerging from its emotional turmoil is not just concern for loved ones but a rapidly building defiance. French people are determined to try to go about their normal lives. That attitude can be expected in small or large measure to spill over into box office attendance this weekend in France. Indeed, there are already signs of recovery.
However much down, “Mockingjay” still topped Paris’ box office, selling 26,000 tickets on Wednesday. Overall in France, “Mockingjay” admissions came in at 205,000, including 55,000 tix sales in Tuesday night previews, 40% down on “Part 1,” per Rentrak figures.
The first “Mockingjay” earned over $25 million in France in 2014.
In contrast, No. 2 of new bows was Gaumont’s Venice competition player “Courted,” starring Fabrice Luchini (“Potiche”) and Sidse Babett Knudsen, the prime minister in “Borgen.” Gaumont released “Courted” on 371 screens across France on Wednesday and scored 34,953 admissions including 10,576 tickets sold in Ile de France – Paris and its suburbs.
In general, Wednesday’s Paris suburbs B.O. was 20% down on the same day in 2014, inner city box office 25% down, per Rentak.
But “Mockingjay – Part 2’s” target demography probably played against it. “A big part of the core audience for the film is 12-16s. Most of them were probably told to stay at home after the police raid yesterday,” said Eric Marti, Rentrak general manager, France.
“Courted,” he pointed out, skews towards more independent adult audiences.
“We are very satisfied with this score. Considering that the box office this Wednesday was down 50% compared with regular opening days, we were very exposed. When we woke up and heard about the raid, we feared the worst and were expecting a disaster,” said Matthieu Tarot, who produced “Courted” via his Paris-based company Albertine Productions.
“Some exhibitors told us audiences were applauding at the end of the film and said ‘Courted’ was a film of reconciliation,” he added.
There are now early signs of what could be a box office recovery.
After the best bow in France in the last three years on Nov. 11, two days before the attacks, on Wednesday “Spectre” punched 19,500 admissions in Paris and its suburbs, ranking No. 2 overall of all films yesterday, including holdovers and new entrants. That, Marti said, suggested that Parisians who hadn’t caught it before the attacks were now playing some kind of catch-up.
Big films have still made their impact. Though “Mockingjay – Part 2” underperformed hugely, total box office in Paris and its suburbs, was 7% up on Wednesday night two weeks ago, before either “Spectre” or the last “Hunger Games” bowed in France, Marti observed.
In terms of hardtops, all central Paris’ major cinemas closed Saturday. But UGC and MK2 central Paris sites re-opened Sunday. Every single cinema in Paris normally open for business Monday was open for business Monday save one: the Gaumont Saint-Denis, near Paris’ Stade de France national sports stadium, outside which three suicide bombers, having been banned entry, blew themselves up Friday night.
It took Parisians one week after January’s Charlie Hebdo slaughter to return to normal levels of cinemagoing, Marti said.
Many Parisians say that they are determined that terrorists will not dictate how they lead their lives. French feel-good movies might fare better than any other kinds of films, benefitting from an upsurge of nationalism across the country.
“If nothing dramatic occurs in the coming days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a very high weekend,” said Marti.
Reasons cut several ways.“Some people may go to the cinema as an act of defiance. People who haven’t been to the cinema in the last few days may want to catch up on “Spectre,’ ‘Hunger Games,’ auteur cinema.” Paris also expects a cold snap from Saturday.
France boasts the biggest film market in Europe. Cinemagoing is also part of French people’s lives. And that is exactly what they want to reclaim, after events of terror.