While U.S. blockbusters deserted screens in 2020, French animated features had 10-year record-breaking performance at the local box office last year, according to a study conducted by the CNC (National Film Board) and unveiled on the opening day of Annecy Film Festival.
As French theaters were shut down for most of the year due to the pandemic, only 25 animated films were released in local cinemas last year. But the few local animated pics that were released, such as “Bigfoot Family,” “Josep” and Joann Sfar’s “Little Vampire,” represented 32.7% of all admissions for animated films in France in 2020, the highest level within the last decade.
“Bigfoot Family” was directed by Ben Stassen and Jérémie Degruson. The 3D-animated film is the sequel to “Son of Bigfoot,” and was written by Bob Barlen and Cal Brunker (“Escape From Planet Earth”). “Josep,” meanwhile, is directed by Aurelien Froment (known as Aurel) and charts the life of Josep Bartolí, the Catalan illustrator, painter, and lover of Frida Kahlo. “Josep” was part of Cannes 2020’s Official Selection and won the Cesar award for best animated feature. “Little Vampire,” meanwhile, is a fantasy-filled movie adapted from Sfar’s graphic novel. All three films were showcased during Annecy’s online edition last year.
One of the few U.S. tentpoles released in 2020, Universal’s music-filled sequel “Trolls World Tour” was the year’s highest-grossing animated films in France, where it sold one million admissions.
Over the last 10 years, the average budget of local animated films has been 11.5 million euros ($13.33 million). French producers are still the primary source of financing (covering an average of one-fourth of budgets) while minimum guarantees for the film’s theatrical and international rights represent about 15% of the budgets, on par with foreign producers (with 16%) and public bodies (20%).
While the number of theatrical animated releases dropped significantly due to the pandemic, the level of TV productions was on par with 2019. As many as 295 hours of animated programs were produced in 2020 with a record-breaking cumulated budget of 245 million euros, illustrating the rising production value and international profile of French animated series, said the CNC.
With borders closed throughout most of the year, a large number of productions relocated in France and benefited from the tax rebate for animated TV content. As such, the amount of investment into French animated program peaked to 82.2% in 2020, compared with 70% in 2019.