After being shut down for over six months, French cinemas bounced back in a spectacular way, drawing 2.1 million admissions in six days after reopening on May 19. The results are particularly strong considering the current restrictions on cultural venues in France, notably an audience capacity of 35% and a 9pm curfew.
While there are no U.S. blockbusters currently playing in theaters, French audiences flocked to critically-acclaimed films, leading with Albert Dupontel’s “Bye Bye Morons,” which swept seven Cesar nods.
Distributed by Gaumont, “Bye Bye Morons” is one of the several movies re-released last week, along with Maiwenn’s Cannes 2020 movie “DNA,” Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-winning “Another Round,” Charlene Favier’s “Slalom” and Nicolas Maury’s “Garçon Chiffon.”
“Demon Slayer: Mugen Train,” the Japanese anime movie which took many markets by storm, ranked second at the French B.O., behind Dupontel’s offbeat comedy. Other to-performing films include the animation/live action blend “Tom and Jerry” and Quentin Dupieux’s Venice title “Mandibles.”
France’s bullish box office stands in stark contrast with what it was a year ago, when cinemas reopened on June 22 with Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”
“Back in June 2020, it took 10 days to reach one million admissions after theaters reopened, so what we’re seeing now is just exceptional,” says Eric Marti at Comscore France. With an estimated 1.6 million tickets sold from Wednesday to Sunday, the B.O. was just down 23% compared with the number of admissions sold during an average weekend in May between in 2015 and 2019 (when there no seating limitations and curfew), according to Comscore. On Monday, which was a holiday in France, admissions skyrocketed and were 200% higher than on an average day in May between 2015 and 2019.
In comparison with other key European markets, France has also scored the best restart for cinemas. Whereas Germany has not yet reopened its cinemas, admissions in Spain were 72% down on 2019, according to Marti, who points out that Italy was also down approximately 80%. The U.K. has been faring better, with a box office reaching an average of 20% to 30% below May 2019’s levels.
Aside from the large film offer, several factors are at play behind the performance of cinemas in France. The country is home to biggest number of screens per capita (more than 6,000 screens as of 2019) in the continent, and traditionally ranks as Europe’s biggest nation of moviegoers.
France’s B.O. is expected to rise again when the audience capacity will be increased to 65% on June 9 before being fully lifted on June 30. The curfew will be further pushed to 11pm on June 9 before being lifted altogether on June 30. This week’s anticipated releases include Florian Zeller’s Oscar-winning “The Father” with Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman, and Emerald Fennell’s “Promising Young Woman” with Carey Mulligan.