Having already established a cult profile by opening the Edinburgh Film Festival, UK distributor Momentum Pictures is hoping to propel Amelie From Montmartre into the UK record books by supporting its 78-print October release with a p&a budget in the region of $853,000 (£600,000).
"We believe Amelie is going to be the biggest French film ever in the UK," said Momentum's managing director David Kosse. "I think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon proved that there is a huge market for foreign films whether subtitled or not."
In order to do so, the film will have to beat the current record for a French film in the UK, held by 1991's Cyrano De Bergerac with $3.5m (£2.46m) - the third highest grossing foreign-language title in the UK after Crouching Tiger ($13.3m/£9.3m), and Italian-language Life Is Beautiful, which grossed $4.3m (£3.0m) in 1999.
Amelie, which as a contemporary romantic comedy should prove a strong draw in a market that has just paid $59.3m (£41.6m) to see Bridget Jones's Diary, has broken numerous records in its home territory of France, taking over seven million admissions and remaining in the country's top five after 15 weeks on release.
Momentum's 78-print launch compares to 88 prints for Crouching Tiger and will include 19 prints in the West End and five in Ireland.
Promotional partners for the release of the film include cinema chain UGC and Martell, the Brandy company, as part of the Martell French Film Tour. Industry sources claim that Martell was ready to pull out of sponsoring the third year of the French film season, until Momentum's ambitious plans for Amelie became known.
Amelie will be trailered from this weekend with 20th Century Fox's Planet Of The Apes. Closer to its release, the film will also receive the biggest ever UK television campaign for a foreign-language title.
Momentum Pictures has seen its three best successes all within the last 12 months, starting with the Coen Brothers' comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou' which grossed $4.6m (£3.2m) in 2000, and continuing with The Adventures of Rocky And Bullwinkle, $6.4m (£4.5m) and Get Over It, $5.2m (£3.6m) this year. Thanks largely to Rocky And Bullwinkle and Get Over It, both poor box office performers domestically, the distributor has already seen its total grosses for 2001 outstrip the whole of 2000, taking $13.7m (£9.6m) to the end of July, compared to $10.8m (£7.6m) in 2000. In addition, the revenues for 2000 nearly tripled the 1999 figure of $3.9m (£2.7m).