French Box Office Plunges 70% Due to New Entry Rules Requiring Proof of Vaccination or PCR Test

Courtesy of Universal/Everett Collection

The French box office has taken a big hit and dropped 70% this week due to the new sanitary measures enforced on July 21 which require a proof of vaccination or a recent negative PCR test to enter cultural venues, including movie theaters.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on July 12 that the EU Digital Covid Certificate — commonly called “health pass” — would be mandatory at all cultural venues. The new measure — which has sparked protests across the country with some people calling Macron a dictator — is meant to help contain the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in France, as well as push people to get vaccinated. Starting on Aug. 1, the health pass will also be mandatory in cafes, shops, restaurants, as well as trains and planes, among other places.

On Wednesday (July 21), the day that the measure kicked off, theatrical admissions fell 60% to 280,000 compared with the previous day.

“It’s a dramatic situation — on Tuesday, “Kaamelott – Premier volet,” the latest opus of Alexandre Astier’s adventure comedy franchise had a bullish launch in theaters with 320,000 tickets sold in a single day, and then a day later the entire box office for all movies was 280,000 admissions,” said Eric Marti at Comscore France.

F9,” the latest instalment of Universal’s action-packed “Fast & Furious” franchise with Vin Diesel, John Cena and Michelle Rodriguez, saw its ticket sales in France drop by 90% since Wednesday. Several other movies which bowed at the Cannes Film Festival and were recently released, including Leos Carax’s “Annette,” with Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, which opened the fest and won best director, and the Palme d’Or winning “Titane” also suffered with a 80% and 33% drop, respectively. Admissions for Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta,” another Cannes competition title, dropped by 70%, according to Comscore France.

A decree published earlier this week allows exhibitors to bypass the mandatory health pass if they can limit audience capacity to 50 people per screen which seems to be a feasible option for some smaller cinemas. Marc-Olivier Sebbag at the FNCF (French National Exhibitors Federation) however, says large venues such as multiplexes which had already been the most impacted by the lockdown will be the most hurt by these new restrictions. Exhibitors now fear distributors will pull out their upcoming releases, notably Gaumont with “OSS 117: From Africa With Love,” the anticipated French comedy starring Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”) which world premiered on closing night at Cannes.

The box office drop is not so surprising considering that only 43.8% of the French population is fully vaccinated as of July 23. The new measure primarily affects the young population which has been last to access vaccines and incidentally adolescents and youth demographics are the most likely to go to movie theaters, especially during summertime, explains Sebbag.

After Macron’s speech, the number of appointments for a shot of the vaccine skyrocketed by more three million, France Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a televised interview on Wednesday. As many as 4.3 million people booked an appointment to get their first dose since July 12, according to a CNN report citing the medical booking site Doctolib.

France is the first country in Europe to require a health pass in public venues but other countries are expected to follow suit. Italy, which hosts the Venice Film Festival in early September, just announced it will also make the health pass mandatory in most public venues starting Aug. 6. In the U.K. a proof of vaccination will also be demanded in nightclubs and other venues with large crowds from the end of September.