Preliminary figures from France’s National Cinema Centre reveal 4.2% rise in cinema attendance in 2011.

Buoyed by the success of homegrown hits Les Intouchables [pictured] and Nothing to Declare, French cinema attendance hit a 45-year high of 215 million entries in 2011, according to provisional statistics from France’s National Cinema Centre (CNC).

“This result is far higher than the ten-year, annual average of 191 million. It’s constitutes a record not reached in 45 years, since the 234 million admissions of 1966,” the CNC said in a statement.  

The 2011 figure represented a 4.2% increase on 2010, which posted 206 million admissions.

The bumper result is all the more surprising given the moribund start to 2011, which saw attendance fall by 6.2% for the first six months. January posted a year-on-year drop of 22.5%, and April, a fall of 28.5%, before cinema-going bounced back.

The CNC said attendance had been “particularly dynamic” in the second half of 2011, posting a 14.8% rise in entries against the same period in 2010. In November, admissions rose by 33.5% to nearly 26 million and in December by 28.6% to nearly 25 million.

Admissions for French films rose by 21.4% to hit 89 million entries. It was the best performance for local pictures since 1984, when they garnered 94 million entries, and way above the ten-year, annual average of 73 million entries. The market share for French films increased to 41.6% in 2011, against 35.7% in 2010.

American films attracted 99 million spectators, for a slight increase of 0.8% year-on-year, and above the ten-year average of 90 million. The market share for American pictures fell, however, to 46%, against 47.6% in 2010.

Films from other elsewhere fared less well — accounting for 12.4% of the market in 2011, against 16.7% in 2010, or 26 million entries.

The top five performing films in France of 2011 comprised Les Intouchables, Nothing to Declare, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, The Adventures of Tintin and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Les Intouchables continues to rise up France’s historic box office chart.

As of December 28, when admissions stood at 16.6 million, the film lay in fifth place, behind Gone with the Wind, the 1966 Franco-British, World War Two comedy La Grande Vadrouille (Don’t Look Now… We’re Being Shot At), Welcome to the Sticks and Titanic, which has retained the top slot since 1998 when it attracted 20.6 million spectators.