Unifrance study reveals record year on back of international success of Intouchables, Taken 2 and The Artist.

International admissions for French films rose 88% to 140 million entries in 2012 for a two-fold increase in box office gross to $1.16b (€875m), Unifrance’s annual report on the performance of French cinema abroad has revealed.

This compares with some 65.7 million international entries for French productions in 2011, representing a box office gross of $540m (€405m) and far outstrips the previous record of 84.2 million  entries in 2008.

The study noted that hit comedy Intouchables, EuropaCorp’s Taken 2 and Oscar-winning The Artist were in large part responsible for the jump in foreign box office receipts.

“These three films, which were majority French financed, accounted for 65% of the global box office registered by Unifrance films in foreign theatres in 2012,” explained the report.

Intouchables breaks record

The report added that Intouchables, which garnered 29.5 million entries in 57 territories in 2012 for an accumulated total of 30.4 million, was now the most successful French-language film internationally in history — taking over from previous record-holder The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain which had held the top slot for more than decade with 23.1m admissions.

Overall French-language pictures accounted for 66 million foreign admissions in 2012, against 25.2 million in 2011.

Michel Hazanavicius’ silent The Artist attracted 12.02 million spectators over 45 territories in 2012 for an accumulated total of 13.2 million.

The English-language, Liam Neeson-starring Taken 2, which has drawn some 46.4 million spectators in 77 countries since its release last October, also broke records, becoming the most successful French production ever at the international box office.

Other top performers

Beyond the success of the three top performers, Unifrance cited another dozen French titles that had pulled in respectable audiences abroad in 2012, including Asterix and Obelix: in Britain 3D (3.19m), A Monster in Paris (1.18m), majority French co-production Amour (980,000), Houba! On The Trail Of The Marsupilami (920,000), What’s in a Name? (800,000), Rust and Bone (580,000) and Behind the Walls (430,000).

Beyond Amour, Unifrance noted a slew of French co-productions had gone on international release in 2012, including David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, co-produced by Paris-based Alfama Films, and MK2’s On The Road (850,000) as well as Roman Polanski’s 2011-release Carnage, which drew 1.62 million spectators in 34 countries last year for an overall total of 3.7 million.

Regional figures

Breaking down the data by region, Unifrance noted that audiences for French films grew by

  • 217% in Asia;
  • 120% in Australia and New Zealand;
  • 43% in the Middle East;
  • 80% in Africa, with South Africa the top market;
  • 136% in Latin America;
  • 45% in North America;
  • 79% in Western Europe;
  • 87% in Eastern and Central Europe, led by Poland.

Challenges remain

In spite of the record-breaking year and a slew of upcoming titles with strong potential such as Eric Rochant’s Jean Dujardin-starrer Mobius, Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo, Guillaume Canet’s Blood Ties and Luc Besson’s Malavita, Unifrance warned the environment for French films at the foreign box office remained challenging.

“These exceptional results don’t hide the structural difficulties facing French cinema at the foreign box office, in particular, access to theatres, which are majority focused on American blockbusters,” noted the report.