Nice Truck Attack Has Minimal Effect on French Moviegoers

Post Nice, Boosted by ‘Ice Age,’
Photo by Lionel Urman/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

French moviegoers outside of Nice weren’t as affected by the devastating truck attack there Thursday as they were after last November’s terrorist bombings and shootings in Paris, which caused a drop in theater attendance.

While many theaters in Nice were shuttered after the massacre, box office held relatively steady in the rest of France, edging up 0.7% for the five days of Wednesday to Sunday, July 13-17, compared to the same weekend in 2015, according to figures from Comscore France.

The Nice attack possibly hasn’t had the same kind of impact on moviegoing in France because it occurred outdoors, unlike the targeting last November of Paris’ Bataclan theater, a prime cultural venue. Dozens of people were shot to death inside the Bataclan, and cinema attendance plunged for two weeks in Paris and its suburbs, said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, managing director of the Fncf, France’s national exhibitors association.

Now, however, new security measures such as metal detectors and bag searches at theaters have made them perceived as a safe place for entertainment, Sebbag said.

“I think people have realized we were at war and will be in a state of emergency for a while, so they’ve determined to continue their lives as freely as they can, even if they are being much more cautious,” Jocelyn Bouyssy, director of French multiplex chain CGR, told Variety on Saturday.

The main impact on moviegoing in France was in Nice itself, where some cinemas closed after the attack. Attendance on Friday night at the theaters that did stay open was 50%-80% down from Thursday.

“We’ve seen that box office is often affected in the region where an attack takes place rather than in the whole of France,” Sebbag said.

Meanwhile, French cinema circuits are pulling “Bastille Day” indefinitely, complying with distributor Studiocanal’s request over the weekend. The Idris Elba thriller, which was released in France last Wednesday, is about a bomb attack in Paris. Gaumont-Pathe, France’s biggest exhibition group, removed “Bastille Day” on Monday. UGC will follow on Tuesday. All French cinemas will comply, said Sebbag.

Given the number of advance bookings, it was impossible to move the release, a source at UGC Cine-Cite Les Halles, one of Paris’ biggest megaplexes, told French press agency AFP.

The agency quoted a Studiocanal representative as saying that “certain aspects of the movie are not in line with this period of mourning.”

In all, French cinema theaters sold 2.7 million tickets —  representing about $19 million in box office grosses — over July 13-17, vs. 2.68 million a year earlier.

Box office was buoyed by typically strong attendance Thursday, which was Bastille Day, France’s national holiday, helped by a big bow by “Ice Age: Collision Course,” which grossed $7.2 million for 20th Century Fox on 873 screens. That was the top performance of any international territory for the new “Ice Age,” outranking bows in Russia ($5.9 million from 1,296 locations) and the U.K. ($5.2 million at 1,107 screens, including previews).

Including previews, “Ice Age” represented the ninth-best opening this year in France.

Total box office in France surged 46% compared to the weekend before, which was dominated by the Euro 2016 soccer final.

In spite of the tragedy in Nice, “this was a pretty good week, stronger than last week. Sunday was poor, but probably more because of good weather,” said Eric Marti, at Comscore France.