French films grossed €91.4 million ($103 million) from 14.8 million admissions overseas last year, a 5.5% year-on-year increase, while China became the top territory for French film fare, ahead of Russia and Spain. Figures were unveiled by French promotion org Unifrance during a day of conferences hosted as part of its Rendez-Vous event in Paris.
While theaters around the world were once again closed for several months last year, as many as 719 French films released internationally, a 17.7% year-on-year increase.
In spite of the ongoing pandemic, French movies also shined at major film festivals with Audrey Diwan’s “Happening” and Julia Ducournau’s “Titane” winning the top prizes at Venice and Cannes, respectively. As many as 202 French movies were selected in the top 10 international film festivals, accounting for 21% of respective lineups, a 24% increase on 2020.
French movies were also slightly better represented on streaming services with 2,900 titles available on international platforms, which represents nearly 5% of their global offer, up 7.4% on 2020.
“In 2021, French cinema on the international marketplace showed performance similar to that of the previous year. While it conserved its position in theaters and strengthened its presence at festivals and on SVOD platforms, analysis of the figures reveals a geographical breakdown of the offer and markets very different to 2020,” said Unifrance in its report.
The org pointed out that rules for theaters in 2021 differed greatly from one territory to another, unlike in 2020 when most countries shut down cinemas and reopened them roughly at the time. Last summer, for instance, while the recovery was underway in Europe, cinemas were closing in Oceania.
Unifrance argues this “fragmented picture made planning and the implementation of international launch strategies for films considerably more complicated.”
Overseas B.O. for French movies in 2021 was driven by French movies that were not shot in the French language, including Florian Zeller’s Oscar-winning “The Father” and Matteo Garrone’s “Pinocchio,” which are the only two French productions that sold over one million tickets each in 2021. “The Father” was the top-grossing French movie with 3.8 million tickets sold. Another movies that performed well was the family movie “The Wolf and the Lion.”
In Europe, admissions for French movies dropped by more than 1.5 million. Meanwhile, China became the leading market. Ticket sales for French films skyrocketing by 90% across Asia and Latin America.
“The future remains uncertain and unpredictable, but French cinema maintains its presence on the international stage thanks to its rich and diversified offer, the high level of coproductions, its solid cinematic heritage, a sustained presence at festivals and on streaming platforms, and a network of French film industry professionals working on both production and distribution in close collaboration with foreign executives,” said Unifrance.
A flurry of critically acclaimed French movies are expected to boost overseas B.O. figures in 2022, including “Aline – The Voice of Love,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Happening,” “Lost Illusions,” which will pursue their international roll-out, along with a raft of new pics set for a launch later this year, notably “Notre-Dame on Fire,” “Paris, 13th District” and “Waiting for Bojangles.”