Cinema admissions in France, Europe’s biggest movie market, plunged 70% in 2020, compared with 2019, decimated by COVID-19, which saw French cinemas shutter for 176 days this year, France’s National Film Board (CNC) announced on Wednesday.

Total ticket sales came in at 65.1 million, according to the CNC, 65.2 million according to Comscore, which valued that trawl at €450 million ($549 million) in gross box office. Given that France saw 213 million admissions and total box office earnings of $1.62 billion in 2019, according to European Audiovisual Observatory estimates, 2020 results saw the market lose more than $1 billion in cinema ticket sales.

In such straightened circumstances, U.S. movies monopolized France’s Top 5, with best scores being punched by Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” (2.3 million admissions), “1917” (2.2 million) and “Sonic the Hedgehog” (2.1 million). No French film made the Top 5 – unusual for France, which boasts the strongest local industry of any major market in Europe.

In contrast, however, French films’ market soared from June 22 to Oct. 28, skyrocketing from a 40.4% total market share in October 2019 to 62.1% in October 2020, according to Comscore. In all, over 2020, French movies’ took a 44.9% market share, its best performance this last decade, besting U.S. movies market share of 40.8%, the first time that has happened since 2006, according to the CNC.

That said, total tickets sold for French movies was still down 60.7% on 2019, the CNC added.

Box office results in France were exacerbated by the length of its lockdown, initiated in a first phase on March 14, plus an October curfew, just as audiences seem to be returning to cinema theaters, said Eric Martí, head of Comscore France.

Also damaging results, box office fell 22% in the first 10 weeks of the year, before a first nationwide cinema closure on March 1, Martí added.
France also broke a 50-year admissions record in 2019, making for tough comparables.

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“Dolittle” Universal Pictures

Top 10 Box Office Hits in France, 2020
(Title, distributor in France, country of origin, admissions, date of release)
1 “Tenet,” Warner Bros., U.S., 2.3 million, Aug. 26
2 “1997,” Universal, India/U.K./U.S,  2.2 million, Jan. 15
3 “Sonic the Hedgehog,” Paramount, Japan/U.S., 2.1 million, Feb. 12
4 “Bad Boys For Life,” Sony, U.S., 1.7 million, Jan. 22
5 “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” Disney, U.S., 1.7 million, Dec.19, 2019
6 “Ducobu 3,” UGC, France, 1.4 million, Feb. 5
7 “Dolittle,” Universal, China/U.S., 1.2 million, Feb. 5
8 “The Call of the Wild,” Disney, U.S, 1.2 million, Feb. 19
9 “Ten Days Without Mom,” Studiocanal, France, 1.1 million, Feb. 19
10. “30 Days Max,” Studiocanal, France, 1.1 million, Oct. 14

Emiliano Granada contributed to this article.