French productions lose market share as US films take more than 50% of box office for first time in more than a decade.

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The French box office fell by 5.3% in 2013 to 192.79 million admissions in 2013, against 203.56 million entries in 2012, according to preliminary figures released today by France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC).

It is the first time cinema admissions in the country have fallen below 200 million since 2009.

After a fairly lacklustre year, the French box office rallied by 19.4% in December against December 2012, generating 22.3 million entries, but this was not enough to bring the final tally up to last year’s overall levels.

More worryingly for the French film industry, just one officially local production made it into the top ten releases chart in the shape of family comedy Les Profs which came in fifth, clocking up some 3.7 admissions following its release by UGC Distribution last April.

Directed by and starring popular comedian Pierre-Francois Martin-Laval alongside Christian Clavier, the comic strip adaptation evolves around a failing high school which recruits a team of failing teachers to turn its poor exam results around. It is based on a popular comic strip. 

 In 2012, three French productions figured in the top ten, comprising Houba! On The Trail Of The Marsupilami, La Verité Si Je Mens 3 and Asterix and Obelix: in Britain 3D.

Overall, the French share of the market fell to 33.3% in 2013 against 40.3% in 2012 and 40.9% in 2011.

“For the second time in a decade, not one single French film achieved more than five million admissions.

American productions took 53.9% of the market, accounting for 103.9 million admissions, against 42.7% in 2012. It was the first time the US took more than 50% of the French box office in more than a decade.

Cinema from the rest of the world accounted for just 12.8%, against 17% in 2012.

Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures’ Despicable Me 2, directed by French Chris Renaud & Pierre Cofffin and largely produced at the Paris-based Illumination Mac Guff studio, topped the release chart with 4.4 million admissions.

It was followed by Sony Pictures Releasing France’s Django Unchained, Disney’sIron Man 3 and Warner Bros.’ Gravity, which is still in theatres.

Overall, the top five titles performed less spectacularly than the top films last year. France’s 2012 top grosser Skyfall garnered 6.5 million spectators while Ice Age 4 racked up 6 million admissions.

“2013 is characterised by an absence of really big hit, whatever the nationality the films,” noted the CNC in its report. “In 2013, for the first time in more than 10 years, not a single film has made achieved more than five million admissions.”

Breaking down the figures further, the CNC said eight films had achieved more than three million entries, against 12 in 2012; 19, more than two million admissions against 20 the previous year, and 53 more than a million, in line with 2012.

“Some cinemas, whatever their size, have experienced a significant drop while others have remained stable,” exhibitor body the National Federation of French Cinemas (FNCF) said in a statement in response to the CNC figures.

The body said the fall was due in part to “an offering of films which didn’t correspond to audience expectations” as well as “the cost of living squeeze and resurgence of piracy”

French Box Office 2013: Top 10

rank / title / admissions (m)

  1. Despicable Me 2 (4.4)
  2. Django Unchained (4.2)
  3. Iron Man 3 (4.1)
  4. Gravity* (4)
  5. Les Profs (3.7)
  6. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug* (3.6)
  7. Frozen* (3.5)
  8. Now You See Me (2.9)
  9. Fast and Furious 6 (2.8)
  10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire* (2.8)

* Still on release
Source: Rentrak France