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Studies & Market Reports

19 November 2021 à 12:06

Results for French films abroad in 2020

UniFrance has released the 2020 results for French feature films shown in foreign theaters, on digital platforms, and at ten international film festivals. This report also presents results for the sale of French short films and virtual reality (VR) works outside France in 2020.

2020 was marked by a dramatic change in our lives and our professional ventures. This impacted on the movie industry and the performance of French films in international markets. The Covid-19 crisis, which has been long and arduous, turned everything upside down. The closure of movie theaters almost everywhere globally caused shock waves in the industry. Nevertheless, during this devastating time, French cinema has maintained its international position, and even stood out from the pack due to its outstanding resistance in these difficult circumstances. Confronted with the retreat of Hollywood blockbusters, as they awaited brighter conditions before returning to theaters, French films made their presence felt, allowing distributors and exhibitors to offer still-cautious audiences quality content in harsh times. French product also satisfied the demand of digital platforms—which found themselves suddenly at the center of attention in content distribution—offering content for the small screen with a greater diversity in terms of creative expression. International film festivals, deprived of red carpet events and recent productions, could count on French films to maintain the connection with audiences, locally and online. Furthermore, the turnover generated by the export of French short films and virtual reality (VR) works in 2020 was the highest ever registered. It is therefore not surprising that French films occupied a high position in the international market in 2020 in comparison with 2019. With a well-structured and well-supported industry in its home market, French cinema proved its capacity to adapt, demonstrating its influential role with distributors, exhibitors, and foreign media outlets.

Since its first publication in 1994,* the UniFrance annual report on French films has monitored and analyzed the figures for French productions in theaters outside France each year, with its content enriched and expanded over the years. In 2020, the number of international territories in which a comprehensive study of French film results was conducted rose to 70. Even though access to data from digital platforms remains inversely proportional to the streaming of content, around a dozen of our fact sheets for individual countries include a page dedicated to a study of distribution on SVOD platforms. A facet of the industry that was studied and included for the first time in 2020, the section dedicated to the major international film festivals completes our report this year, presenting a statement of results on the export of French short films and VR works. This annual report is unique among all national movie industries—no other nation is in a position to produce a comparable publication.

Downloadable documents

Freely available: Introduction to the results for French feature films in theaters outside France + their presence at international film festivals + Results for French films in 2020


French feature films in theaters abroad in 2020

746 French films were screened in theaters outside France, generating:

  • 1,683 new releases
  • 16.1 million admissions
  • €101.7 million in box office receipts
  • 77.2% of admissions attributed to French-language productions: a new record!

International box office revenues for French films abroad declined by over 60%.

3 titles attracted over 1 million spectators, including the most successful majority-French production of 2020:

  1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  2. An Officer and a Spy
  3. The Specials
  4. Les Misérables
  5. La Belle Epoque

The most popular genres were comedies/dramatic comedies (32.6% of all admissions), dramas (24.4%), and animations (16%).

In terms of geographic regions, Western Europe accounted for 49.3% of all spectators for French films, followed by Central and Eastern Europe (20.9%), and Asia (13.3%).

For the first time, Russia ranked as the leading market in terms of attendance figures, followed by two major European markets: Spain and Germany.


French feature films at international film festivals in 2020

163 French productions were selected at 10 major international film festivals,** representing 19.5% of these festivals' total offer of titles in 2020.

53 French titles were presented at Rotterdam, while at Cannes, via the "Cannes 2020 Label," the offer of French films reached the highest proportion (63.8%). Toronto, Cannes, and Busan form a trio of festivals that have selected the largest number of French productions over the past 10 years.

Among the 163 films identified, 128 were coproductions, with the main coproduction partners Belgium and Germany. After French, the two languages the most widely spoken in films were English and Arabic.

Finally, 27% of the 163 titles were directed by women.


The export of French short films in 2020

This study is based on a survey in which several dozen French production companies participated.

  • 1,126 French short films exported
  • 2,709 sales
  • €722,348 generated in sales revenue
  • 602 foreign buyers

A record-breaking year!

Fictions jumped to first place in the ranking of sales revenue (58.4%), while animations retained their lead in terms of the volume of sales (56.2%).

In terms of geographic regions, Western Europe remains the number 1 market for French short films, followed by North America and Central and Eastern Europe.

The United Kingdom once again ranked as the number 1 export territory for French shorts, followed by the USA and Spain.


The export of French virtual reality (VR) works in 2020

This study is based on a survey in which around twenty French production companies participated.

  • 36 French VR works exported
  • 117 sales
  • €538,826 in sales revenues
  • 49 foreign buyers

Overall, the figures are higher than in 2019.

Animations represented 38.5% of the year's sales revenues, a few percentage points ahead of documentaries, which generated the largest number of sales (50).

Asia remained the number 1 market for French VR works, followed by North America and Western Europe.

The USA emerged as the new leading market for the export of French VR works, followed by China and Iceland.

*No annual reports were produced between 2003 and 2007.

**BAFICI, Berlin, Busan, Cannes, Locarno, Rotterdam, San Sebastián, Sundance, Toronto, and Venice.

Author : Andrea Sponchiado

Latest update : 04 February 2022 à 12:06 CET

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