Jeanne Du Barry

Source: Stephanie Branchu / Why Not Productions

‘Jeanne Du Barry’

The French box office continues to maintain the momentum of its return to pre-pandemic ticket sale levels with admissions reaching 14.26 million in May, up 27.6% year on year and stable (up 0.9%) with the 2017-2019 average.

Since the start of the year, French cinemas have seen 82.38m admissions according to figures from state film organisation the CNC. Ticket sales for the first five months of the year are up 33% compared to the same period in 2022, but still 11.6% down from the pre-pandemic 2017-2019 average. The upward swing is hopeful, however, for the country where ticket sales reached 19.1 million in April, a 2.7% increase from the 2017-2019 average, marking the first time admissions exceeded pre-pandemic levels since theatres re-opened following strict national lockdowns.

Ticket sales in May were powered by Hollywood blockbusters including Disney’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, released on May 3 and totaling nearly 3m admissions to date, followed by Universal’s dynamic duo Fast X, released on May 17 and amassing 1.65m admissions, and Super Mario Bros., still going strong with 1.1 million ticket sales in May and a record-breaking total to date of 7 million admissions.

Disney’s The Little Mermaid tailed in the fourth spot, failing to make much of a splash with 582k tickets sold in its first week in theatres, but still topping the box office in the last week of the month.

60 films were released for the first time in May 2023, a notable increase from the 49 released in May 2022 including 12 American and 26 French films, up from just two US titles in 2022 and 29 French titles the year before. The market share of French films is estimated at 44.2% over the first five months of the year, with American films at 43.7%.

A Cannes boost

As the eyes of the world turned to May’s Cannes Film Festival, a handful of films that premiered at the festival and were released day and date in French theatres have seen strong ticket sales including Maiwenn’s opening night film Jeanne du Barry, Valerie Donzelli’s Just The Two Of Us (Cannes Premiere) and Elias Belkeddar’s The King of Algiers (Out of Competition). 

Jeanne du Barry was crowned top French film for the month with the buzzy period drama starring the filmmaker opposite Johnny Depp selling upwards of 557,460 tickets in just two weeks in theatres. The film is the fifth best performing feature of the month, the biggest success for its distributor Le Pacte since 2019’s Les Misérables and is the fifth best box office reported for a Cannes opening film in the last ten years in the country. Le Pacte will also release Justine Triet’s Palme d’Or-winning Anatomy Of A Fall in August.

Just The Two of Us (Diaphana Distribution), released on the same day of its Cannes premiere on May 24, was the top French film of the week, selling 220,327 tickets and was the best performing film of the week behind The Little Mermaid, Fast X and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Studiocanal’s The King Of Algiers (Omar La Fraise) was just behind Just The Two Of Us and Jeanne du Barry for the week, selling a respectable 140,144 tickets following its Cannes premiere.

The upcoming summer months look promising for the slow, but steady return to pre-Covid box office figures with major releases like June’s Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts, The Flash, Cannes titles Asteroid City, Elemental and Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny, and summer potential hits like Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie in July.