Ten years ago, no reliable data on the performance of French films abroad was available to industry professionals in France. Since 1995, however, Unifrance has built up a database of results for French films in international theaters covering 45 countries, to which one or two additional territories is added each year.
Moreover, as of this year, thanks to a study undertaken by the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) in collaboration with the ADEF (France's Film Exporters' Association), Unifrance and the IFCIC (Film and Cultural Industries Financing Institute), the profession has access to the export turnover generated by French films abroad in 2003 (€185.5 million, including €123 million for French films).
In addition to information on box office and export revenues, this year has also seen the first study undertaken by the IFOP Institute, initiated by the ADEF, examining the impact of French films abroad, covering areas ranging from tourism to the consumption of French products.
1 film per day on movie screens abroad
In 2004, 330 French films were released in at least one international territory. If we take into account the month of December, it could be claimed that on every day of this year, one new French film has been released somewhere in the world. This large number of releases, considering the number of films produced in France annually (200 in 2002, 212 in 2003), can be attributed to the fact that the international careers of films tend to be spread out over an extended period of time.
In 2004, 6 of the top 10 French films performed better abroad than in France
The calendar year is therefore only a tool for "photographic" and statistical measurement offering a global perspective at a given moment. It is quite another thing to consider the individual careers of films that function independently of annual limits.
The international career of a film, from one release to another, one country after another, can in fact be spread out over a number of years. This enables numerous films to finish up with results that are more significant on the international level than in the domestic market.
It is worth noting the international careers of "Amelie" (22.3 million admissions and €133 million in box office receipts), "Asterix and Obelix versus Caesar" (15 million admissions and €76 million), "Euro Pudding" aka "The Spanish Apartment" (2.7 million admissions and €13.6 million) and "Swimming Pool" (3.3 million admissions and €17.6 million).
In 2004, this is already the case for 6 of the 10 top-performing films, including "Two Brothers" (5.2 million admissions abroad, 3.3 million in France), "Crimson Rivers 2 – Angels of the Apocalypse" (2.9 million admissions abroad, 2.1 million in France), "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran" (6 times more admissions abroad than in France) and "The Triplets of Belleville" (2 million admissions abroad, 875,000 in France).
40 million spectators in international territories in 2004…
During the first 11 months of 2004, French films attracted an estimated total of 33 million spectators in foreign theaters, generating box office receipts valued at €170 million.
Over the same period in 2003, French films posted 37 million admissions and €205 million.
We can thus observe a decrease of 11% in admissions and box office takings from 2003 to 2004.
These estimations, while still incomplete, enable us to predict admissions at 40 million for 2004, for around €200 million in receipts. With admissions in foreign theaters at 40 million, the performance of French films will be in line with the average figures for the past ten years.
… and the end of the year will see the launch of films with strong commercial potential
There are, in fact, 15 countries that are not as yet monitored by Unifrance charts, and many films with strong commercial potential such as "Chorists" and "A Very Long Engagement" have only just set out on their international careers. "Chorists" by Christophe Barratier has at this stage only been released in 10 of the 36 countries that have acquired the rights to the film, and "A Very Long Engagement" by Jean-Pierre Jeunet has only just hit the screens in the United States, having only crossed French borders into Belgium and Switzerland to date.
And yet it is titles such as these that make all the difference in results from one year to the next. We can thus expect an uptick in admissions to French films in 2005, considering the upcoming release in numerous territories of a number of films, including "36 quai des Orfèvres" by Olivier Marchal, "The Daltons" by Philippe Haïm, "Russian Dolls" by Cédric Klapisch, "Danny the Dog" by Louis Leterrier, "Boudu" by Gérard Jugnot, "Mon Ange" by Serge Frydman, "Anthony Zimmer" by Jérôme Salle, "Hidden" by Michael Haneke, "L'Empire des loups" by Chris Nahon, "Le Dernier trappeur" by Nicolas Vannier, "Double zéro" and "Les Chevaliers du ciel" by Gérard Pires and "L'Avion" ("Charly") by Cédric Kahn.
Germany shows renewed interest in French films, while the Spanish market remains in the doldrums
If we take a closer look at international results, we can observe flagging admissions at this time in Spain and the United Kingdom. As was the case last year, the Spanish market remains to some extent blighted by the absence of purchases from television channels, even if the sensational opening week of "Chorists" (200,000 admissions) could help bring an end to this spiral.
Only 27 French titles have been released in Spain in 2004 (a far cry from the 47 films released in 2003). The British market confirms its reputation as a highly difficult market for non-English productions (less than 600,000 spectators in this period).
On a brighter note, three territories have picked up the pace in 2004: Germany (up 93% against 2003), Belgium (up 49%) and Switzerland (up 20%).
Generating 50% of admissions to French films, Europe remains the major geographic zone for French fare, and Unifrance's program for 2005 reflects this priority (see Appendix 3).
Outside Europe, the United States and Japan suffered in 2004 from a lack of standout French titles. In the United States, the top four French films of 2003 ("The Pianist," "The Travelling Birds" aka "Winged Migration," "Swimming Pool" and "Euro Pudding") raked in €50 million, whereas in 2004, the top four titles ("Alexander," "Two Brothers," "The Triplets of Belleville" and "Monsieur Ibrahim") show a running total of just €39 million.
It is a similar story in Japan, where the top three films of 2004 ("Two Brothers," "Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse" and "Immortel - Ad Vitam") have clocked up €12 million to date, while the top three films of 2003 ("The Pianist," "Taxi 3" and "The Transporter") took €35 million.
2 million admissions in China in 2004
It is worth noting the emergence of a major player in international results for French films in 2004: China. With 9 films released on Chinese screens ("Michel Vaillant," "Fanfan la Tulipe," "The Travelling Birds," "Two Brothers," "The Dancer," "The Pianist," "Chorists," "Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse" and "La Cible") registering 2 million admissions, French films have achieved a highly significant breakthrough in this still extremely tight market.
* The four countries leading box office results for French films in 2004 are identical to those that generated the highest export turnover in 2003: Germany, the United States, Italy and Japan.
* Some titles show an outstanding performance in certain territories: in 2004 we can observe the fine results of "RRRrrrr!!!" in Poland (182,000 admissions), "The Little Chinese Seamstress" in Germany (270,000 admissions) and "Michel Vaillant" (451,000 admissions).
* The top 5 majority-French productions in the provisional results for 2004 are French-language productions: "Two Brothers," "Crimson Rivers 2: Angels of the Apocalypse," "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran," "Chorists" and "The Triplets of Belleville."
Unifrance takes into consideration the results for French films according to CNC approval guidelines. These results are gathered outside France.
For comparative results for 2003/2004, the sample group of countries monitored for assessment includes 30 countries only (Austria, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States). These countries were selected due to the fact that their results were readily available and suitable for comparison. Unifrance subscribes to around 15 film statistics providers managed by private organizations, with the remainder of information sourced from official organizations in the countries concerned or from statements from distributors and exporters.
As concerns the lists of top films, the figures presented for 2004 are calculated from January 1st through November 30. Complete results for these films, some of which began their careers in 2003, are indicated in supplementary information.