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French Box Office Takes a Hit From ‘Yellow Vests’ Protests

The violent “Yellow Vests” protests that have rocked France in recent weeks have also hit the movie business, dragging down local box-office performance in spite of several hit titles such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Le Grand Bain.”

In Paris, where demonstrators rioted on three consecutive Saturdays, theatrical admissions recorded on Dec. 8 were about 20% lower than normal, according to Eric Marty at Comscore. With about 10 theaters shut down, there were an estimated 77,800 tickets sold this past Saturday in the French capital, compared to the norm of about 100,000. Moreover, the number of tickets sold that day represented only 23.6% of those sold the entire weekend, compared to the usual 28%.

The impact of the protests was limited, however, because the unrest was confined to a handful of areas, notably around the Champs Elysees, the Grands Boulevards and the Paris Opera. Many moviegoers were able to find other theaters in the city.

Marc-Olivier Sebbag, general manager of the FNCF (French Exhibitors Guild), said that France’s national box office this month was on par with last year but would have been at least 5% higher without the riots, considering the current offer of strong titles such as “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox’s biopic of Freddie Mercury; “Le Grand Bain,” Gilles Lellouche’s French comedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team; and “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.”

Aside from the impact on the box office, the Yellow Vest riots affected other cultural venues in Paris. Museums such as the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay, as well as theaters around the Champs-Elysées, Opera and Chatelet, were shut down on Saturday, many for the third consecutive weekend. Several shows at the Paris Opera were postponed, and the anticipated concert of the French rappers BigFlo and Oli at the 20,300-seat AccorHotels Arena was pushed back by 24 hours. After the Arc de Triomphe was vandalized on Dec. 1, access to major monuments across the capital was also restricted last Saturday.

The economic impact has been much more severe on tourism, with hotel reservations in Paris significantly down in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.

The Yellow Vests protests erupted Nov. 17 with demands ranging from lower taxes, higher wages, better support for retirees, tougher immigration laws and the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. Macron addressed the protesters for the first time Monday evening on primetime TV, pledging to increase the minimum wage and cuts some taxes, among other measures. His address has been met with mixed reactions.

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