Fewer young people are going to the movies in France, according to a CNC report assessing the cinema-going habits of 6-24 year olds, the "golden age group". But fortunately those who do go, go more often than before, mostly due to the multiplex boom.

It is finally dawning on the French film industry watchdog that an effort should be made to produce films that would attract the young.

The percentage of under-24 moviegoers, although still the core movie audience (one spectator out of three), has slipped from 44% in 1993 down to 37.8% in 1999. Furthermore, the age group has 'lost' 195,000 cinemagoers, whereas, during the same period, the overall movie attendance has grown by 2.6 million, mostly due to more visits by the over-25 age group. The percentage of under-24's financial contribution to the French box office has also dwindled from 46.5% in 1996 to 42.3% in 1999.

An alarming trend to say the least. Along with their obvious importance to the French box office -- the 6-24 year-olds purchase two tickets out of five, nearly twice as much as the average French population, with a peak for the 20-24 age group and 42% of them see at least one film per month, compared with 37.5% for the overall population -- the younger crowd also plays a crucial role in the career of a film, since most of the buzz surrounding a film before its release as well as the word-of-mouth after its opening originates with this age group.

There is a silver lining to the cloud. The overall movie attendance has sizeably increased. Movie attendance by the under-24 age group has increased from 41.9 million tickets bought in 1993 to 43.7 million in 1999. A bullish trend mostly spurred on by the multiplex boom, since the impact of multiplexes has been much stronger among this age group than among the older age groups.

According to another survey also commissioned by the CNC, the over-35 age group, which represent 49% of the overall attendance, only represent 28% of multiplex visitors. Some 46% of multiplex patrons are under 25, whereas they represent 37.8% of the overall movie-going crowd.

For the 15-24 year olds, the technical quality of the screening and the comfort of the theatre is as much as an incentive to go see a movie as the film itself, the discounts on ticket prices and the number of films available at any given time also playing a major role. Multiplexes usually offer all of the above. Some 66% of the younger patrons have stated that they are seeing more films because of multiplexes, according to the CNC.

The CNC, of course, is mostly concerned by a potential threat to the French film industry. The younger crowd is under-represented among arthouse spectators, and, consequently, the industry watchdog would like to see more films targeted at this age group. The head of CNC Jean-Pierre Hoss said: "I fear that the young crowd is not satisfied by the French films on offer. The profession should take more interest in them."