Luc Besson's Europa Corp scored a notable box office coup this week when its Thai action film Ong Bak opened in the fifth spot in the French charts.
The foreign language feature sold 440,495 tickets on just 281 screens for a powerful $10,000 screen average.
In terms of new releases it was second behind Jean-Jacques Annaud's Two Brothers which topped over 1 million tickets, but which debuted on 739 screens - nearly three times more screens than Ong Bak.
Ong Bak is likely to boost its visibility this week when 20 screens are added to the run.
Although largely unknown outside the world of Thai boxing, the film's star Tony Jaa - touted by Europa as "Asia's New Dragon" - made a name for himself during a no-holds barred marketing campaign where he raced around France to meet the public and plug the picture.
In a rare move, accompanying Jaa on some of his jaunts was Besson himself who is notorious for his reclusiveness. However, Olivier Doyen who heads up marketing for Europa told ScreenDaily.com that Besson felt "as such a big discovery the film needed someone known to act as a sort of godfather. He didn't want to regret it if he didn't fight for it."
The film appealed strongly to the 15-25 age-group, mostly male, whether they are into action films from Asia or not. Tie-ins with local martial arts competitions, a high-profile web site and a trailer campaign that began a full two months before the release combined to create loud buzz. Add in the fact that the film uses no CGI or any Matrix-style fakery and the film takes on an almost retro dimension.
Emphasis on the French release has been especially high given that France is the first western territory to release and that Europa is handling sales in Europe along with North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.
For full French box office figures, see ScreenDaily.com's international box office charts. Click http://www.screendaily.com/boxoffice.asp>HERE for more details.