The Mark Osborne-helmed Le Petit Prince has become France’s top animated export in two decades. After debuting in Cannes in May, the film went on to make $67.5M around the world — and that’s without the U.S., where Paramount releases the film on March 18. Typically action movies have been the biggest draw: The U.S. and China loved Lucy in 2014, and in 2015 again showed their affinity with EuropaCorp‘s Taken 3 ($285M), which was the top French film around the world last year with The Transporter Refueled at No. 3 ($69.2M).
French movies sold 106 million tickets overseas in 2015, the third time in four years the number topped 100 million — and the second year in a row there were more admissions to French films outside France than in. Those were worth an estimated $653M at offshore turnstiles. In total, it’s the 3rd best export year for French films in more than 20.
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The figures were presented this evening in Paris by French film export body Unifrance at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, in conjunction with the annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, which sees about 400 international buyers come to sample the local offerings from French sales companies. Largely an hors d’oeuvre for Berlin, it’s also a celebration of the industry’s ability to travel.
At the ceremony, Le Petit Prince producers Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam were awarded the first annual French Cinema Award — and that’s not a translation: The kudo’s name is in English. Unifrance President Jean-Paul Salomé nodded to the irony. More than half of France’s export cash this year came from films produced in English, but French-language pics saw a sizable 22% jump to 42.6M tickets sold. That’s a bit of a slippery slope, since three of the top films were animated and thus played in dubbed versions elsewhere, but the original conception was in French.
Animation was a clear highlight in 2015 with Astérix Le Domaine Des Dieux (No. 6) and Mune, Le Gardien De La Lune (No. 7) also in the Top 10. A record 20% of all receipts came from the medium. Le Petit Prince alone sold 15M tickets.
Rounding out the Top 10 exports were comedy Qu’Est-ce Qu’On A Fait Au Bon Dieu!? at No. 5; Omar Sy-starrer Samba (No. 8); Christophe Gans’ La Belle Et La Bête (No. 9) and Wim Wenders doc Le Sel De La Terre.
All the Top 3 films performed strongly in China. Taken 3 grossed about $32M; Le Petit Prince $24M and The Transporter Refueled picked up $18M+. China overtook North America by about 300K admissions this year. That’s a new milestone, but there was a big discrepancy in receipts, reflecting the difference in ticket pricing. China’s box office on French films was $77M versus North America’s $115M.
Overall, Asia for the first time became the leading region for French films with 28.9M admissions. Western Europe bought 25.6M tickets, although the UK continues to be in a dive. Latin America sold 22.3M admissions. North America dropped to 4th place, but Unifrance notes that auteur films like Kristen Stewart-starrer Clouds Of Sils Maria (which is largely in English) and Oscar nominee Timbuktu found their share of success.
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