One year after merging with the promotion org TV France International, Unifrance is preparing a series of strategic events in key markets across Europe, the U.S., China and Japan to fast-track the global distribution of local series and movies.
The French film and TV advocacy banner will host trade shows bringing together French sales outfits and international distributors in Paris in January, Biarritz (Southwestern France) in September, as well as in Roma in April, Madrid in June, Berlin in November, New York in March and Yokohama in December. The 13th edition of MyFrenchFilmFestival, the online fest dedicated to French movies will be held in January and February.
While the French box office has suffered a decline due to the pandemic, Unifrance highlighted the recent critical success of French productions at major festivals, for instance Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or winning “Titane,” as well as the series “Call My Agent!” winning an International Emmy, and Audrey Diwan’s “Happening” winning the Golden Lion at Venice 2020.
French movies garnered 17.5 million tickets overseas in 2021, led by Samuel Tourneux’s animated film “Around the World in 80 Days.” Julien Fournet’s “Phil’s Adventures,” a film from the team behind “The Jungle Bunch,” was another successful animated film. I
In the U.K., a market heavily dominated by English-language movies, Celine Sciamma’s “Petite Maman” managed to sell 45,000 tickets. The movie, which marked Sciamma’s follow up to “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” was also fairly successful in the U.S. where it sold nearly 100,000 tickets.
Forecasting the second half of 2022, Unifrance says admissions levels are going back up in many countries, such as the Netherlands and South Korea, while other territories like Germany, Italy and Spain are still struggling.
Unifrance also expects the overseas B.O. for French movies to be up by 50% in 2022, again bolstered by French animated features, including “Vaillante,” directed by Theodore Ty and Laurent Zeitoun (“Ballerina”) which sold over one million tickets in one month and has been particularly popular in Latin America and Russia; and Ben Stassen and Benjamin Mousquey’s “Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness,” has also performed well internationally. Martin Bourboulon’s period film “Eiffel” co-produced by Pathé, and starring Emma Mackay and Romain Duris, also recently had a healthy opening in U.S. theaters.
A couple more movies from Pathé – Guillaume Canet’s “Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom,” and Martin Bourboulon’s two-part “The Three Musketeers” — are expected to help power up the B.O. in 2023.
French movies also represented nearly 5% of the libraries on major subscription-based streaming services and pay VOD platforms in 2021, ranking third behind U.S. and Indian productions, according to Unifrance. On Netflix alone, French movies were the most watched foreign-language films during the second semester of 2021.
Examples of French hits on streamers include Louis Leterrier’s “The Takedown” with Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte which is already the platform’s all-time fifth most watched foreign language film. As far as series, the French police comedy show “HPI” starring Audrey Fleurot (“Spiral”) traveled to 90 countries and was watched by nearly 175 million people throughout the world.
The unified Unifrance banner brings together more 1,000 members, including producers, sales agents and artists across the film and TV industries.
“This new Unifrance is much better adapted to the current situation that our film and audiovisual communities are faced with,” said Unifrance president Serge Toubiana.
Toubiana pointed to France’s artistic and cultural leadership within Europe, and its role in financing and co-producing foreign movies by talented filmmakers from around the world.
“There are still battles to wage to promote freedom and independence (…) in an economic and industrial context which is constantly evolving under the pressure of global streamers,” continued Toubiana.
Unifrance received a bonus subsidy of €3 million to bankroll its post-merger strategy and put together new operations, as well as develop more digital tools and content for professionals and audiences alike. The org is currently building the slate of its dedicated Youtube channel which will boast exclusive and wide-ranging content.
“There is a real appetite for French films and series and our aim is to fully reflect the diversity of what we have to offer,” said Unifrance’s managing director Daniela Elstner, who also highlighted the org’s ambition to work alongside European institutions and creators, on top of investing in new technologies.
“A strong Europe needs a powerful European culture. As long as European cinema and audiovisual industries will be healthy, French creation will benefit from it,” said Elstner, who joined Unifrance in 2020 from Doc & Film International.