Is Latin America – especially Colombia – emerging as a new mainstay of upscale French dramedies? Paris-based Memento Films Intl.’s “Un Profile pour deux,“ (Mr Stein Goes Online”), from France’s Stéphane Robelin (“All Together”), which is beginning to rack up serious money from a mainly summer roll-out, could be a case in point.
A feel-good drama-comedy navigating the opportunities and challenges for second-chance love at the now spry age of 75, “Mr. Stein Goes Online” stars vet thespian Pierre Richard as a lonesome widower, pining for his dead wife, whom he watches of a night on 16mm home movies capturing her at the seaside as he gets sozzled on wine.
But when his daughter gives him her old computer, and hires her daughter’s indolent boyfriend, Alex (Yannis Lespert), a wannabe writer, to instruct Pierre how to use it, Pierre strikes up an online romance with an enchanting 31-year-old Belgian woman (Fanny Valette) using Alex’s photo. When she suggests they should meet, Pierre pays Alex to go in his place, but can’t resist accompanying him to observe his own first date.
In some ways, “Mr. Stein Goes Online” is a grey-audience dream, showing how oldsters still have the power of at least verbal seduction over the much younger. Shuttling attractively from Brussels to inner city Paris, where Pierre’s choicely-appointed apartment has a plum view of the wane Paris skyline, it also asks, however, if someone, after a happy 50-year marriage that has defined their life, can ever commit with so much heart again.
In a sign of now established evolution in box office results for Gallic crossover fair – which would on paper traditionally be arthouse in overseas markets given it’s in the French-language – the upbeat German box office for “Mr. Stein” (€1.5 million: $1.7 million) near doubled the disappointing result in France.
Earning a €364,000 ($422,000) theatrical gross, Austria posted the second-best result in Europe. That reflects the exploding status of German-speaking territories, over the last decade, from “Welcome to the Sticks,” as an avid consumer of more quality French comedies.
Even more notably, the second-best result in the world came from Colombia, where Munir Falah’s Cine Colombia has run up €498,000 ($578,000, and still counting) from a Sept. 14 bow. Meanwhile, box office in Mexico (€125,952: $146,000) is 57% up on Spain (€80,400: $$93,260).
“The very good numbers for the film confirm the taste for upscale, smart and touching French comedies in international markets. We can see that Latin America (especially Colombia and Mexico) have become more than real opportunities for such popular and crossover titles,” said Mathieu Delaunay, at Memento Films Intl.
Results can be put down in part to the film’s positioning. “Mr Stein Goes Online” was pre-sold to Los Angeles-based IDC, which works with distributors such as Cine Colombia, Brazil’s Paris Filmes and Mexico’s Corazon Films. Far from an arthouse buyer, IDC holds down an output deal with Lionsgate for Latin America. But IDC and its partners work much more than mainstream movies.
One key decision to reach broader and younger audiences could be the movies’ title in Spanish : the bald “Amor en línea” or “amor.com.” Another a promo which, if the Mexican example is anything to go by, mentions (rather than shows) sex a lot, sometimes in comedic banter: “You’ll talking in my name,” Alex protests Pierre’s email seduction. “And you’re having sex in mine!” retorts Pierre.
All the distributors work Facebook and social media. Meanwhile, vid clips have Pierre Richard talking in Spanish inviting audiences to attend his film.
The film invites a wider audience in its mix of psychological and physical observance and broader situation comedy such as when Pierre’s family, including Alex’s girlfriend, pays him a call, to meet his supposed new catch, who is in bed with Alex.
Another French dramedy, “The Belier Family,” already sold 537,000 in Colombia: box office of over $4 million.
“Colombia counts a flurry of French institutes and schools, so there is a very large audience for French movies; we love French culture and share cultural and social similarities,” Cine Colombia’s Pia Barragan has explained.
Distributors have also had the boldness to open “Mr. Stein Goes Online” in major locations beyond niche arthouses. In Bogotá, Cine Colombia – which buys across the board with tastes far broader than typical multiplex fare and owns over 200 screens out of Colombia’s national 933 screen-park – is currently screening “Mr. Stein Goes Online” in not only its Avenida Chile arthouse but also the highly popular Cine Colombia Unicentro theater and six other shopping mall multiplexes.
Backed by positive reviews, often highlighting the performances of Richard and Falette, whose characters’ damaged hearts center the film’s emotions, “Mr. Stein Goes Online” has still to open in Brazil. As markets for upscale French fare, Latin America used to be an afterthought. No more.