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03 February 2016 à 10:38
During the Rendez-vous du cinéma français à Paris (January 14-18, 2016), UniFrance presented this study into the 13 top selling French film genres in foreign markets over the past 20 years.
This study seen from the perspective of genre underlines just how much the international marketplace embraces and reflects the rich diversity of French cinema. Over the past 15 years, French production has expanded into different areas. Contrary to popular belief, French cinema is not limited to dramas and comedies. Animated films; documentaries, notably wildlife; thrillers, often English-language; biopics of major national figures known around the world: French cinema has no qualms about tackling any kind of genre, and audiences abroad seem to have understood this better than anyone.
French documentaries, more popular abroad than in France
As such, foreign audiences now outstrip the number of spectators in France for documentaries, thrillers, period films, fantasy films, and biopics. This is mainly due to the fact that comedy, the genre which dominates the French box office (66% of admissions for French films), accounts for a much smaller proportion in foreign markets (only 35%, although it remains the dominant genre). That leaves more room for other genres to have much greater visibility than on the domestic market. Comedy nonetheless remains the genre with the greatest number of productions in circulation – as many as all the others put together. Drama, which encompasses arthouse films, accounts for the second biggest contingent of French films on the international scene, after comedies. It is also the most widely represented genre on the international festival circuit, but dramas draw fewer admissions in foreign theaters than in France. Likewise, crime and animated films do not outstrip their national performance in foreign markets.
Certain genres almost automatically travel better than others. Among biopics, animations, and period films, nine out of 10 films have a foreign release. The genre which exports the least well is documentary.
English, an advantage for thrillers, but not for comedies
Shooting in English can be an advantage, but only for certain types of film like thrillers, period or fantasy films. Some 80% of admissions for these genres are recorded by English-language pictures. Conversely, 4 out of 5 admissions for comedies, biopics and crime films are clocked up by films shot in French. It should be noted that animations and documentaries are not concerned with the issue of language, since they are almost always dubbed.
Budget is also a criteria for successfully breaking out beyond French borders. In the case of thrillers, biopics and animations, box office performance tends to be greater, the bigger the film’s budget. Receipts for dramas and comedies are less closely associated with production costs. Only documentaries can hope to achieve success on a relatively low budget.
This overview by genre of the circulation of French films abroad is altogether enlightening. It shows the vitality of national production, but also reveals some potential yet to be explored. Should we produce expensive movies in English to maintain a presence in certain genres in the international marketplace? Can dramas break through in Russia? Can French animation measure up in Japan? Are US audiences inherently resistant to French comedy? Which genres should we offer to new Chinese audiences? This study provides the elements to answer these questions.
The study (in French) can be downloaded in its entirety via the attached document. The English version is abridged.
Latest update : 14 April 2016 à 10:38 CEST