In France, movie-goers will eagerly line up for the latest from revered auteurs or even more mainstream directors - think Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Luc Besson or Francis Veber. But the old-guard of French actors like Gerard Depardieu and Catherine Deneuve are no longer guarantees of box office.

Many of the personalities driving today's box-office are former TV actors who have a big national following: since French broadcast regulations prohibit film ads on TV, the public is far more familiar with TV stars. The most oft-cited example is Jamel Debbouze, from the Canal Plus stable. Comedian Debbouze has segued into a lucrative acting career and moved into drama with this year's Oscar-nominated Days Of Glory.

'I don't even think there is a French word for 'star',' says Jean-Baptiste Babin of BackUp Films. 'Frankly I don't really see any French star able to open a film on his own. Unfortunately, the only actors to be able to do that are TV people like Jamel.'

Wild Bunch chief Vincent Maraval agrees: 'The star system no longer exists,' he says. 'Agents still try to make people believe it exists for the networks but films like Tell No One, Je Vais Bien, Ne T'En Fais Pas and Je Vous Trouve Tres Beau show that the public is looking for quality and not names as compared to such flops as Blueberry, Boudu and The Stone Council.' The latter titles starred Vincent Cassel, Depardieu and Monica Bellucci respectively.

Maraval continues: 'We push producers to do films with unknowns more so than with actors who weigh on a budget. There is no actor in France today who can guarantee pre-sales. Stars who come from television have no impact abroad and a very short shelf-life in theatres.'

Still, one recent TV name that might well fit into the category that helps boost a film's potential is Jean Dujardin, who rose to notoriety in a series of TV shorts called Un Gars, Une Fille. Since he broke out in James Huth's 2005 hit Brice De Nice Dujardin has been riding a wave that means he can help open a film. Last year's OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies, which landed among the top 10 films of 2006 in France, is a case in point.