Parisian cinemas closed their doors on Saturday, and began to re-open through Sunday and Monday with locals returning to les salles obscures after the horrific terrorist attacks on Paris on Friday night. While the country continues to reel and mourn, French tracking site CBO reports theaters were far from empty when they rebooted in the past few days. But this morning, France awoke to news that police were raiding a terrorist cell in the north of the city. That had an effect on the early numbers for new films, leaving Parisians exercising caution and staying glued to their TVs as news unfolded.
New releases this week include The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, whose first showing in Paris amassed nearly 1,600 admissions. That is drastically down from last year’s Part 1 which started with 3,800 in its first 2 PM Parisian showings. As we have reported, Mockingjay 2 is on track to hit an international opening weekend of $165M-$185M, so the early numbers are not a reflection on the film, which has garnered strong reviews and is performing in the provinces. Sneaks throughout the country were double the first film Tuesday night.
In terms of other films, Spectre, which lost a day of receipts on Saturday, is entering its second frame after a very strong outing last week despite the Saturday Paris closures. Those two Hollywood titles should offer diversion and perhaps even catharsis as Katniss leads the revolt against the tyrannical President Snow and 007 battles Blofeld. These are the two final franchise tentpoles that France will see until Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 16. In the meantime, some of the art-house fare has switched up release plans in light of the attacks, and others are sticking to their dates despite sensitive subject matter.
Beginning today, Mockingjay Part 2 releases on more than 800 copies; Venice hit L’Hermine is on 370; Suffragette on 150+; and Trainwreck and Macbeth are on about 100 each. Spectre is already playing wide with $15M+ on nearly 2M admissions over the weekend — the biggest of the year.
One film not in this week’s mix, as we reported this weekend, is Made In France, a thriller about a French Muslim journalist who infiltrates a Jihadi cell in the heart of Paris, with a view to uncovering a plot to bring havoc to the streets of the French capital. Distributor Pretty Pictures unsurprisingly postponed the release and pulled its AK-47 depicting poster campaign.
Among films with sensitive themes which are sticking to their dates in the coming weeks is Pathé’s Les Cowboys, a Directors’ Fortnight debut from frequent Jacques Audiard collaborator Thomas Bidegain. That’s holding to its November 25 date after defying what other movies have done this week and holding its premiere Monday night in Paris.
Later down the road, on December 2, Bac Films has decided to keep its date for Taj Mahal. Directed by Nicolas Saada, its subject matter is particularly striking given recent Paris events have been compared to those of Mumbai in 2008. Taj Mahal recounts the true story of an 18-year-old French woman who survived the attack on the titular hotel during which 164 people were assassinated.
Bac said in a statement, “We asked ourselves if there was a place for this film during this trying time, even if it is distanced (from the original events) we could push it back.” But, said Bac, “We think that in the face of obscurantism, terror and the unspeakable, cinema exists to open a dialogue. In these difficult moments, it allows us to look at the world as it is… And we are certain that to backtrack today is to capitulate tomorrow.”
Les Cowboys for its part follows a father in search of his daughter who has converted to Islam to live with a radical. Bidegain said of the decision to keep the Pathé film on its date, “Life must go on and the life of films as well. Cinema doesn’t change the world, but its job is to show the world as it is. If we push the release, until when would we have to push it? Until the end of the attacks? But when is that? This film… is on the side of those who remain. It shows the mania that has attacked us and the time it takes to get over it.”
Another Cannes film, Joachim Trier’s Louder Than Bombs, which stars Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne, has been retitled Back Home in France. Memento Films Distribution is sticking to a December 9 release date for the story of a fractured family recalling their late wife and mother, a famed war photographer. Meanwhile, the Nicholas Hoult-starring comedy Kill Your Friends is keeping its title, Le Film Français reports. It’s also maintaining 50 sneak previews across the whole of France ahead of a December 2 bow.
Finally, there had been a question mark over L’Hermine, a romantic drama for which Fabrice Luchini won the Best Actor Volpi Cup in Venice, but which does not have themes related to the Paris attacks. Producer Matthieu Tarot tells me he had discussions with Gaumont about possibly pulling the movie out of a sense of general respect. But, he says, “In the dramatic context tied to the Paris attacks, we salute the cinema-going that occurred this weekend… Sharing this film is to bring people together for a moment of pleasure, joy, emotion and reflection. We are proud and thank Gaumont for allowing the public to see L’Hermine. This love story led by Fabrice Luchini is, for us, a delicate and sensitive response to those who want to make us forget who we are.” The movie sold 1,560 tickets in Paris this morning.
In support of going to the movies, French film export body Unifrance tweeted the following on Monday:
Another way to refuse the fear & the violence : @tousaucine asks everyone to keep on going to the movies ! (and to the bars) RT to support.
— uniFrance Films (@uniFrance) November 16, 2015
Mardi, tous au bistrot, mercredi, tous au ciné ! pic.twitter.com/KZfKHZY3Us
— Tousaucinéma (@tousaucine) November 16, 2015
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