'Dune: Part Two'

Source: Warner Bros

‘Dune: Part Two’

After a challenging start to the year, the French box office steadied in March with 15 million tickets sold, led by Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two.

This was a dip of just 4.8% on March 2023. While not desirable, this is much less than the dip of 16.4% in February 2024 compared to the same month the year before which was buoyed by crowd-pleasing French titles Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom and Alibi.com 2  that dominated the box office in early 2023. Disney’s Avatar: The Way Of Water was also still in cinemas through February 2023.

Admissions for the first quarter of 2024 reached 43.7 million. 10% less than 2023 and 23.7% less than the pre-pandemic 2017-2019 average for the same period.

Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two was the top ticket seller of the month and has amassed upwards of 3.4 million admissions since its February 24 release. SND’s One Life, starring Anthony Hopkins sold 935,000 tickets in March and has garnered a total of 1.4 million admissions, followed by Paramount Pictures’ Bob Marley: One Love with 632,00 for a total of 1.85 million admissions.

French titles held their own with Apollo Films’ Oldies But Goodies selling 600,000 tickets to reach 1.48 million, SND’s Cocorico is now on 1.9 million following a March haul of 560,000 and  Gaumont’s Cat & Dog – the Great Crossing has notched up 1.1 million total admissions after adding 471,000 in March.

SND has also drawn local audiences for Maurice Ravel biopic Boléro that has sold more than 352,000 tickets since its March 6 release, while Le Pacte’s Anatomy Of A Fall is still performing strongly following its Oscar and Bafta wins, selling nearly 186,500 in March alone for a total of 1.9 million admissions in its native France.

“A very strange year”

Marc-Olivier Sebbag, executive director of France’s National Cinema Federation (FNCF), tells Screen: “Our challenge in the short term is to get through the first half of the year before we can get back to a stable level of moviegoing by 2025.”

The box office dip in the start of the year is due mostly to the lack of Hollywood blockbusters being released in the wake of the 2023 strikes that have seen major studio films pushed to later in 2024 or 2025. Sebbag said:  “The deficit in admissions is due to a lack of US films. If there had been more Hollywood blockbuster releases in 2023, we’d have hit 200 million ticket sales last year.”

Starting in the summer, anticipated local titles will hit theatres, even as the Olympic Games loom, before September sees a more steady stream of both US titles such as Beetlejuice Beetlejuice, Joker: Folie A Deux, Gladiator 2, Wicked: Part 1, Sonic 3, and anticipated local -language fare including And Their Children After Them, Monsieur Aznavour, Beating Hearts and epic The Count Of Monte-Cristo.

Every single week there is at least one big US or French release,” said Eric Marti, general manager of Comscore France. He estimated the total tally for 2024 will be in the 175-180 million admissions range.

“It’s going to be a very strange year,” Sebbag added, “Until June, there aren’t many major films being released, but then there will be a ton of them in the second part of the year.”

All eyes are now on April, with promising hits including recent releases Kung Fu Panda 4 (March 27) and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (April 3) , Ghostbusters: The Ice Menace (April 10) and Back to Black (April 24) though will lack strong titles like last year’s Super Mario Bros. and The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan.