For the first time in ages, the buoyant French theatrical market has slowed down. In March cinema admissions amounted to 15.1 million, some 16% down on the same month last year. That held the first quarter total to 54 million, a drop of 4% compared to the January-March period last year.

The latest data from the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), however, shows a running 12 month total of 186.9 million ticket sales, up 8.4%. The market share for French-made pictures was also an impressive 51.4%, compared with 47.9% in the first quarter of 2001. That total was boosted by the runaway success of Asterix Et Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, which in terms of ticket sales is now the most successful French film since WWII and in terms of receipts is the all time French winner.

Other French hits released since January have been Tanguy, 8 Femmes and Le Peuple Migrateur.