Without a marquee English-language title to boost overall performance, French films in 2018 saw a precipitous drop in overseas admissions, totaling 40M versus 2017’s 82.5M. That 52% tumble is matched by a 51% slide in receipts to 237M euros, export body Unifrance reported today in Paris.
In its findings, Unifrance said it was clear that 2018 “was a disappointing year overall, with certain films performing below forecasts.” These annual ups and downs have become somewhat commonplace owing to the production cycle and the fact that animation and French movies produced in English skew performance in particular years.
Over the past few, such films as Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, Leap! Le Petit Prince, Taken 3, The Transporter Refueled and Lucy have been the strongest earners outside the Hexagon. Many of those have in common that they hail from Luc Besson’s now beleaguered EuropaCorp, which, despite the struggles it is facing, had the top export of 2018 in comedy Taxi 5. That French-language pic sold an estimated 2.44M tickets outside France compared to Valerian‘s 30.4M in 2017. Upcoming, the company has Guillaume Canet’s drama Nous Finirons Ensemble releasing in France via Pathé in March; it’s a sequel to 2010 hit Little White Lies and has potential at home and abroad. The status of thriller Anna, which Besson directed, is unclear (in recent months, Besson has been accused by several women of inappropriate sexual behavior).
Animation and comedy will likely rule French exports in 2019. Serial Bad Weddings 2 (aka Qu’Est-Ce Qu’On A Encore Fait Au Bon Dieu?!, the sequel to the mega un-PC 2014 smash), and Etienne Chatiliez’s Tanguy Is Back should see uptake in European majors. Already out in some markets, the animated Asterix: The Secret Of The Magic Potion will be released in many more. Big-name directors will also make a return including Olivier Assayas, François Ozon and Paul Verhoeven.
Among the Top 20 French productions of 2018, 10 attracted more spectators overseas than in France, including the animated The Jungle Bunch: The Movie, Oscar nominee The Insult and documentary Maria By Callas. The Top 5 overall were Taxi 5, Gaumont’s C’est La Vie!, Dany Boon’s La Ch’Tite Famille, adventure Belle And Sebastien: Friends For Life and animation White Fang which Netflix has domestically.
Italy, which was a problem area overseas in 2018, was nevertheless the biggest market for French movies in 2018 with 3.94M tickets sold (-11%), followed by the U.S. & English-speaking Canada (3.92M/-40%), Belgium & Luxembourg (2.93M/+13%), Spain (2.92M/-33%) and Germany (2.78M/-44%).
Overall, there may be a silver lining, says Unifrance. The five biggest French movies of 2018 only accounted for 27.1% of ticket sales abroad, compared to 64.8% in 2017. This fragmentation is down to the absence of any flagship titles, but allowed greater visibility for a wider range of films.