PARIS – Comedies don’t travel, right?
Wrong. A pioneering French study, unveiled by its movie export org UniFrance Monday is Paris, showed that, contrary to industry, lore Gallic laffers were France’s No. 1 export line over 1995-2014, followed by thriller/adventure fare: Think Luc Besson EuropaCorp actioners, led by “Taken” installments.
That said, what distinguishes France, the world’s second-biggest film exporting nation, is its arthouse production, UniFrance president Jean-Paul Salomé observed. Drama indeed, after genre, is France’s fourth biggest export biz, in terms of international box office.
Boasting a wealth of detail and range of analysis typical of UniFrance (as CNC French film board) studies, French Film Genres suggested Gallic movies sold 326 million tickets abroad, 1995-2014. That compares to 234 for thriller/adventure, 120 million for fantasy, sci-fi and horror and 97 million for drama. Next best sellers were documentaries (41 million), animation (40 million), war/period films (34 million), biopics (21 million), and crime movies (19 million).
Led by “The Intouchables,” “Amelie” and “Asterix and Obelix vs. Cesar,” comedies can punch huge box office abroad. In 2015, “La Famille Belier” (pictured) sold an extraordinary 537,000 cinema tickets in Colombia. “Paradoxically, however, they don’t always travel easily. Relative to their domestic performance, they travel indeed far worse than other fare. In terms of French box office, comedies punched more admissions (813 million), than other French film types put together. Comedies generated only 29% of their total 20-year admissions outside France. Fantasy and adventure films, with 82% and 72% outside France/France ratios, are far more internationally-skewed movie types. They just don’t punch such big numbers abroad.
In another curveball, French comedies natural markets are France’s neighbors, which are nearest to its in cultural tastes, Gilles Renouard, UniFrance deputy director, presenting “French Film Genres” on the last day of the 18th UniFrance Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris. Taking 67% of box office for local films in France, Comedies represented an extraordinary 58% of all tickets sold to French films in Germany over 1995-2014, 67% in Belgium and Luxembourg, 50% in Spain, 42% in Italy and, surprisingly perhaps, 43% in Russia.
Conversely, thriller/adventures – read EuropaCorp pics, perform much better in the U.S. and Canada, accounting for 41% of tix sales to Gallic fare, the U.K. (28%) and above all China (44%). With a few exceptions – “Amelie,” Oscar-winner “The Artist” – comedies (14% of ticket sales) have struggled to find audiences Stateside and in English-speaking Canada.
Each territory tells its own story, however. Thanks to titles such as Abdellatif Kechiche’s “The Secret of the Grain,” Laurent Cantet’s “The Class” and Patrice Leduc0’s “Man on the Train” – dramas sold 19% of tickets to French films in Italy.
In one turn up for the statistical books, dramas repped as large a percentage of admissions to French films in Mexico (10%) as in Germany (9%), though Europe still stands as France’s prime market for more auteur-fare. Not finding French humor very funny – racist family satire “Serial (Bad) Weddings has still to find a U.K. buyer, said producer Alain Sussfeld in a subsequent Rendez-Vous panel – U.K. spectators warmed more to drama, 15% of ticket sales in the country. Selling dramas, or indeed any French or foreign-language films to the U.K., is, however, still an uphill task.