Tragicomedy about a young couple battling baby son’s brain tumour draws 210, 000 spectators in opening week. Director Valérie Donzelli due to start shooting next feature Main dans la Main in October.  

Valérie Donzelli’s Declaration of War (La Guerre est Declarée), a huge hit with reviewers in Cannes this year where it opened Critics’ Week, has taken the French box office by storm in its opening week.

The film, starring Donzelli opposite actor Jérémie Elkaim, is based on their real-life experiences when their son was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Opening on 129 screens on August 31, the €1.5 million production drew 209,728 spectators in its first week, for a screen average of 1,625, according to CBO box office. Top opener Final Destination 5 clocked-up 497,796 entries on 360 prints, for a screen average of 1,382.

Audiovisual research body the Observatoire de la Satisfaction, which produces an influential weekly study on audience responses to opening films, has predicted Declaration could ultimately generate some 900,000 entries.

Wild Bunch Distribution said it was increasing the number of copies in circulation by 105 for the second week on release, and would add another 40 copies in the third week.

“Since Cannes we’ve known that the film was popular. We’ve done all we can to ensure that it would be a success, presenting it at number of festivals. It won prizes at Cabourg, Paris and Angouleme,” Wild Bunch Distribution (WBD) director general Jean-Philippe Tirel told Screen.

“We also got really good feedback from the pre-screenings and as a result we decided to increase the scope of the advertising campaign to ensure the best opening possible,” he added.

Alongside Declaration’s success on the Francophone festival circuit and the positive pre-screenings, local media hype over the picture has been building steadily since the film’s well-received premiere in Cannes.

Exceptionally, daily newspaper Liberation devoted its front page and first two inside pages to the picture on the eve of its release, branding it anevenement (event). Some publications are even championing Declaration as a possible contender for France’s Foreign Language Oscar submission.

Producer Edouard Weil of Rectangle Productions is bemused but not surprised by Declaration’s success.

“We never set out to make a commercial film, that’s never my objective in any of my productions,” Weil told Screen.  “It was a difficult subject and neither the director nor the cast were particularly well-known at that point.

“I made the film because I wanted to work with Valérie… but when I saw the completed film, I knew we had something special… I was ecstatic,” adds Weil, whose other recent production credits include That Summer.

Weil is now producing Donzelli’s next feature Main dans la Main, a comedy about the unlikely romance between the head of the Paris Opera’s ballet school and an immature, provincial glazier starring Valérie Lemercier and Elkaim.  

Budgeted at €3.9 million, the production is due to start shooting in Paris, the north-eastern French region of Lorraine and New York, for ten weeks from October 24.

Declaration, meanwhile, is set to open Montreal’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema in October and will also screen in a slew of other territories over the coming months

IFC Films’ sister division Sundance Selects acquired all US rights after Cannes. Other distributors to have picked up the film include Cineart (Benelux), Switzerland (Frenetic), Germany (Prokino), SPI (Central and Eastern Europe), Shani Films (Israel), Kalinos (Turkey), Teleview (Middle East), Imovision (Brazil) and Flash Forward (Taiwan).