Despite France's on-going success in the Euro 2000 soccer tournament, the country's annual cinema promotion scheme - the Fete du Cinema - managed to attract 3.8 million admissions over three days from June 25-27.
Ticket sales were down 12% compared to last year's record 4.3 million, mostly due to a 20% slide on Sunday when France played Spain in the Euro 2000 quarter-finals. However attendance was 15% higher than in 1998 when the Fete du Cinema coincided with the World Cup.
Organised by French exhibitors' association Federation Nationale des Cinemas Francais (FNCF), the Fete is intended to kickstart the traditionally slack French summer holiday season. It allows patrons to see as many films as they wish for only $1.44 (FFr10), in exchange for the purchase of one full-rate ticket.
Ridley Scott's Gladiator benefited most from the push. In the week June 21-27, the film scored 1.28 million admissions for a total of 1.4 million.
This year, France will see a record number of major releases in July and August. In the past few years, US studios have learned to make use of the slow summer season, but for the first time, a record number of French titles in all genres will also risk a summer holiday opening this year.
Domestic releases scheduled for July include two Cannes titles, Les Destinees Sentimentales and Harry, Un Ami Qui Vous Veux Du Bien, as well as Philippe Muyl's La Vache Et Le President, Philippe de Broca's Amazone, Eric Rochant's Total Western and Benoit Jacquot's Sade, among others. They will take on US juggernauts such as UIP's Mission: Impossible 2, Columbia TriStar's The Patriot, UGC Fox Distribution's X Men and Big Mamma, Gaumont Buena Vista's Gone in Sixty Seconds and Warner Bros' A Perfect Storm.