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.
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.