The success of Kirikou and the Sorceress both in French theaters in 1998 (1.6 million admissions) and abroad from 1999 (with a total of 820,000 spectators registered outside France) triggered a surge in the production of French animated feature films, which still shows no signs of waning today.
During the period between 1999 and 2014, 66 majority French animated films were released on international screens (representing 93% of the 71 genre films released in France in the same period). These films generated 39.5 million admissions outside France and accounted for 4.2% of total admissions to majority French productions in that period. In France, animated films registered 52.3 million spectators in that period and represented 4.3% of ticket sales to majority French productions—a market share that was thus very similar in the home market and abroad.
9 out of 10 French animated films were released in international markets
The animation genre can be seen as being naturally destined for wide international exposure, with two thirds of French animated films released in at least 4 international markets (67%) and almost one third released in over 30 markets (32%). Overall, more than nine tenths of French animated films (93%) released in France went on to be released in at least one international market.
12 majority French animated films registered over 1 million admissions in international theaters in the past 20 years. These productions represented 18.2% of all French animated films released abroad, which is a particularly high percentage compared to the same figure for productions of all categories combined, for which 7.1% achieved more than 1 million admissions.
Two fifths of admissions to French animated films were registered in Western Europe. The remaining admissions were spread evenly between North America and Central and Eastern Europe (one fifth of admissions) and, to a lesser extent, between Latin America and Asia (one tenth of admissions). French animated films' performance in Africa and the Middle East was observed to be extremely minimal in markets monitored by UniFrance (accounting for 1% or less of admissions).
Production budgets for animated films are, by definition, high. The study observed that more than two thirds of admissions (77%) registered for this genre abroad were credited to films with budgets over €10 million, with over one half of all admissions (53%) generated by films with budgets over €15 million (including the Arthur trilogy, the two animated episodes of the Astérix series, and A Monster in Paris). By contrast, just 15% of admissions were attributed to films in the "mid-range" budget (between €4 and €7 million, such as Belleville Rendez-vous and Persépolis), although this term applies generally to French productions as a whole, even if the costs associated with animated films are higher. The remaining share, under 10%, was generated by low budget animated films (such as Kirikou and the Sorceress, Oggy et les cafards, and Approved for Adoption).
In addition to their high budgets and the large number of countries in which they are generally released, French animated films benefited from a wider release than other film genres. This indicates that, on average, these films are sold and released in a larger number of markets than other French films, which explains the higher release costs associated with this genre, as mentioned earlier.
The cyclical performance of animated films
While the performance of animated films in France has shown considerable variation over the past 20 years, this genre's performance in international markets reveals a period of strong growth between 1999 and 2007, with majority French animated films' market share rising from 1% or less between 1999 and 2002 to 26% in 2007, thanks notably to the success of Arthur and the Invisible (9.4 million admissions abroad that year). After 2007, admissions dropped back until 2011, despite an excellent year in 2008, in which Igor carried the French flag (3.7 million admissions)—a film which did not attract huge interest in France. It appears that the success of French animated films functions in cycles, with a resurgence observed in 2014 thanks largely to Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants (over 2 million admissions) and a successful year predicted for 2015 due to the release of The Little Prince and Mune, two productions from Onyx Films. A notable observation in the study is that while 2013 registered the lowest attendance figures abroad for 10 years (925,000 admissions), that year also marked the highest number of French animated films in circulation since 1999 (35 theatrical releases).
EuropaCorp and Igor lead the pack
While the concentration of admissions on a handful of successful productions is significant, it is not overwhelming, with 51% of all admissions registered by the top 4 films. Leading the charts for the most successful animated films of the past 20 years is Arthur and the Invisible, with 10.3 million spectators recorded abroad and also ranking in 16th place among the top majority French productions in international theaters since 1995. Released, respectively, in 49, 44, and 26 territories, the 3 films produced by EuropaCorp attracted 14.5 million spectators, accounting for over one third of audiences for French majority animated films outside France. In second place for French majority productions is Igor, thanks notably to triumphant scores in the USA and the United Kingdom. This difference between this film's performance abroad compared to the home market is one of the most extreme, with 4.2 million admissions in international theaters against 215,000 in the home market, representing a factor of 19.7. Excluding franchises, the majority French animated film production that was exported in the largest number of international markets was Persépolis, which was released in theaters in 39 foreign markets and amassed a total of 1.9 million admissions, compared to 1.6 million in France.
Latest update : 14 April 2016 à 10:42 CEST