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International statistics

17 January 2019 à 09:37

UniFrance releases results for French Films abroad in 2018

In 2018, French films attracted 40 million admissions and generated 237 million euros in box-office receipts. After an upturn in 2017 when international admissions rose to 82.5 million, ticket sales for French cinema in foreign theaters fell by 52% and went back to the level of those of 2016. For the second time in five years, French films attracted fewer admissions abroad than in France.


  • 26 million admissions* (65.7% of the total) for majority-French productions (down 58.4% on 2017)
  • 24.6 million admissions* (62.2% of the total) for French-language films 5(own 38.2% on 2017)
  • 665 French films on release* in foreign movie theaters (down 3.8% on 2017)
  • 6 French films sold more than 1 million tickets in foreign markets*** (compared to 7 in 2017)
  • 78 French films sold more than 100,000 tickets in foreign markets***
  • Results back to the level of those of 2016
  • Italy leading territory in terms of ticket sales for French films in 2018, ahead of the USA & English-speaking Canada and Belgium & Luxembourg

*Non-exhaustive data already compiled by UniFrance. The definitive results, available in September, will necessarily be higher

**Provisional data estimated by the CNC

***Provisional data estimated by Unifrance


The primary reason for this sharp drop is the absence of any major hits like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (30.4 million admissions) or Leap! (12.7 million admissions), the two biggest sensations of the previous year. If figures for those two movies are removed, the total for 2017 comes down to 39.4 million admissions, roughly equivalent to that of 2018. The number of films on release dropped to 665, from 691 in 2017. Six French films (including three majority-French coproductions) drew more than 1 million admissions, one fewer than the previous year, and 78 films accumulated more than 100,000 admissions, compared to 82 in 2017.

The five biggest French hits in 2018 only accounted for 27.1% of overall admissions for French cinema in foreign theaters, compared to 64.8% in 2017. This fragmentation of admissions is due to the absence of any flagship titles, but allowed greater visibility for a wider range of films. Majority-French productions only accounted for 65.7% of the annual total, while minority-French productions accounted for more than one-third of total admissions for the year – for the third time since 2011. French-language films sold 24.6 million tickets, the worst performance since 2009. Nonetheless, they accounted for 62.2% of total admissions for the period (significantly higher than the 10-year average of 48%), a level only seen once before in 2016.

It is clear that 2018 was a disappointing year overall, with certain films performing below forecasts. That said, there is no reason to question the underlying appeal of French cinema, which still commands an enviable place on all five continents. Among the majority-French productions in the top 20 for the year, 10 attracted more spectators abroad than in France, including The Jungle Bunch (The Movie), The Insult and Maria by Callas. The presence of French film festivals continued its steady rise (especially in Australia and Mexico) and the offer of French film was undiminished in terms of richness and diversity. Its distribution was influenced by strong competition in terms of access to screens, and by changes in the marketplace and in spectator habits.

New films scheduled for 2019 should reveal that the figures for 2018 are a temporary blip. There are some highly-anticipated sequels in store: Little White Lies 2, Serial Bad Weddings 2 and Tanguy is Back. Already out in some territories, in 2019 Astérix: The Secret of the Magic Potion will be released in many other territories and will fly the flag for French animation alongside Funan, Minuscule - Mandibles from Far Away and Terra Willy. The offer of upcoming family films includes Mia and the White Lion, Remi, Nobody's Boy and Ailo's Journey, while fans of emotional drama will enjoy Anna, The Emperor of Paris and The Translators. 2019 will also see the return of some auteurs who are festival regulars, such as Olivier Assayas (Non-Fiction), François Ozon (By the Grace of God), and Paul Verhoeven (Benedetta), not forgetting Lisa Azuelos (Sweetheart), Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), and Alice Winocour (Proxima).


The most-watched French film outside France in 2018 was Taxi 5. The action-comedy sold 2.44 million tickets in foreign markets, mainly in Asia and Eastern Europe. In China, where it was released on 6,000 screens, the film drew 1 million admissions, plus a further 426,000 in Russia. Taxi 5 was released in more than 30 territories and, on the week of its release, featured in the top 3 of 13 of them. However, with the exception of the first installment (2.29 million spectators), its international performance fell short of the other episodes in the franchise.

In second position, C'est la vie! was a major hit in Spain (382,000 admissions) and Germany (361,000), and sold a total of 1.67 million tickets in 40 foreign territories. The comedy crossed the 100,000-admissions mark in Belgium, Israel, Italy, Russia, and Switzerland. Its international roll-out having begun at the end of 2017, C’est la vie! accumulated 2.18 million admissions abroad, a score approaching that of Samba (2.34 million admissions), but a long way from the exceptional performance of The Intouchables (31.9 million).

In third place was another comedy, which also attracted more than 1 million foreign spectators in 2018. La Ch'tite Famille fared particularly well in Europe, totaling 1.06 million admissions, including 282,000 in Germany. It also performed well in the French-speaking countries, like Belgium (306,000 spectators) and Switzerland (76,000). La Ch’tite Famille was the top French film of the year in Quebec (52,000 admissions).

After Taxi, another franchise featured in the top 5. Belle and Sebastian, Friends for Life stood out in Poland (200,000 admissions) and especially in Italy, selling 444,000 tickets to become the biggest French hit of 2018. For the third time, Italy was the foreign country where the franchise sold the most tickets outside France. But overall, Belle and Sebastian 3 did not equal the overseas performance of the further installments.

Rounding out the top 5 is another family film, White Fang, which had a very similar international trajectory to Belle and Sebastian 3, proving popular in Italy (333,000 admissions) and Poland (226,000 admissions), which accounted for more than 70% of total ticket sales. In Poland, White Fang was in the top 3 on its week of release and was then programmed more widely in some 200 theaters. A few weeks later, it was named the best-liked French film of 2018 by Polish audiences.

For the third consecutive year, Western Europe was the leading region for the export of French films. With 17.8 million spectators in total, the region accounted for more than one in three admissions to French cinema over the period. Four territories in the region were in the top 5 in 2018 (compared to only one in the previous year), with Italy moving into top spot, thanks to a smaller fall in admissions. C'est la vie! was the only title to attract more than 1 million spectators in the region (including 382,000 in Spain), while several comedies enabled Belgium to increase the level of admissions compared to 2017.

For the first time, Latin America was in second position among export regions for French cinema. While 2015 remains a record year (22 million spectators with market share of 20.3%), the region’s market share of 14.6% in 2018 was the second-best performance for the region in more than 10 years, thanks in part to three minority-French foreign-language productions. Mexico dropped out of the top 5 territories, but nonetheless remained the leader in the region with 2.38 million admissions, including 394,000 recorded during the last French Film Tour in Mexico. Brazil registered 1.44 million spectators.

Central and Eastern Europe held onto third place in the ranking, with 13.7% of worldwide admissions to French films abroad in 2018. After an upsurge in 2017, the region experienced a sharp drop in admissions, down 60.6%. Russia and Poland were level on 1.4 million admissions, but slipped into the lower half of the top 10 foreign territories. No film sold more than 1 million tickets. Taxi 5 was the top performer in the region, totaling 933,000 admissions, including 426,000 in Russia.

In 2018, the fourth-biggest export region for French film was once again North America. For the past 10 years, the region has seen its market share gradually dwindle, now approaching 10%. The breakout hit Call Me by Your Name (minority production) drew 1.46 million admissions, while The Sisters Brothers accumulated more than $3 million in receipts (360,000 admissions). For its part, Quebec remained just above the threshold of 500,000 admissions.

With 4.4 million admissions, Asia dropped to become the fifth region for the export of French cinema in 2018, in the absence of a runaway hit like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, which drew 13.6 million admissions the prior year. Taxi 5, the top-selling French film of the year in the region, totaled 1.17 million admissions. In China, despite one more release than in 2017, admissions to French films fell by 80%, and only The Young Karl Marx attained more admissions than in France (450,000 compared to 176,000).

Total admissions generated by French films in Oceania were once again over the bar of 1 million, the region accounting for 2.73% of worldwide admissions for French cinema in 2018. The fall is estimated at 41%, one of the lowest compared to other regions. The French-language films that fared best were C'est la vie! (87,000 admissions) and Back to Burgundy (66,000 admissions).

Complete data can be found in the attached document, in French and English.

Author : Andrea Sponchiado

Latest update : 13 May 2020 à 09:37 CEST

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CNC - Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée

Activities :  Executive Producer

Activities external to film production :  Organization, Unifrance Partner

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Tour de Cine Francés - 2018

Type : Feature film festival

Theme : French films

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