French films drew 27m spectators worldwide in 2022 for a gross of €167.4m ($180m), according to the annual report of France’s cinema export agency Unifrance released on Tuesday.
The admissions figure represented a 51.8% hike on 2021 when cinemagoing remained severely impacted worldwide due to the Covid-19 pandemic but is 32% lower than the average of 40m entries per year for the previous decade.
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The figure is also way below the bumper years of 2012, 2014 and 2015, when French cinema generated international entries of 144m, 120m and 114m respectively thanks to films as diverse as The Intouchables, The Artist, Lucy, Le Petit Prince and Taken 3.
Breaking the 27m admissions figure down, majority French productions generated 17m of these entries, representing a 78.9% rise on 2021, while 19.6m of the admissions were for French-language productions.
The body noted that the headline admissions figure was achieved in a context in which the overall domestic box office fell 26%, while key markets such as Germany, Spain, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. registered drops of 33.!%, 43.9%, 55.!%, 25.9% and 32.15 respectively, according to Unifrance figures.
Overall, 902 majority and minority French productions were released outside of France in 2022, 4% down on 2021, for a total of 2,132 release campaigns, which was 12.9% more than the previous year.
Out of these films, seven achieved at least one million entries outside of France, while 47 titles sold more than 100,000 tickets.
Top 10 French Cinema Exports 2022
Title/ Sales Agent/Admissions in 2022 (cumulative to end 2022)
Serial (Bad) Weddings, Les Films, 1.82m (1.82m), $15.5m
Pil’s Adventures, SND, 1.32m (1.43m),
The Wolf And The Lion, Studiocanal, 1.26m (1.81m)
Around The World In 80 Days, Studiocanal, 770,000 (1.52m)
Little Nicholas’ Treasure, Charades, 640,000, (670,000)
King, Pathé Intl, 570,000 (570,000)
Vicky And Her Mystery, Gaumont, 340,000 (360,000)
Maigret, SND, 330,000 (330,000)
Rise, Studiocanal, 270,000 (270,000)
Love At Second Sight, Studiocanal, 260,000 (700,000)
Unifrance said the overall trend was positive for French cinema exports after three difficult pandemic years, but that there was still lost ground to be made up.
“The international box office shows signs of improvement but remains fragile, particularly for arthouse films,” said the body.
This was born out in the types of film driving the export figures topped by comedy Serial (Bad) Weddings 3, children’s animation Pil’s Adventures and family film The Wolf And The Lion.
France normally has one or two arthouse titles that break out on the speciality box office market each year, such as Céline Sciamma’s Portrait Of A Lady On Fire in 2019.
The country’s arthouse standing was kept afloat in 2022 by minority co-productions such as Swedish director Ruben Ostlund’s Cannes Palme d’Or winning, English-language debut Triangle Of Sadness and Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s 2022 Oscar-nominated The Worst Person In The World.
In terms of territory, Western Europe was the leading export region for French films for the seventh year running, accounting for 10m entries, with Germany being the biggest market followed by Poland, Italy and Spain.
Top titles in the region were Serial (Bad) Weddings and Triangle Of Sadness.
North America delivered 1.77m admissions, accounting for 6.6% of admissions overall, with the strongest performances coming from The Wolf And The Lion (263,000) and Petite Maman (95,000).
2022 was a poor year for French productions in Asia.
The Chinese market remained heavily impacted by the consequences of the pandemic and only two French titles were released there, Love at Second Sight (261,000) and re-release The Chorus (200,000).
Looking beyond the theatrical box office, Unifrance noted that French cinema had enjoyed a high-profile year on the international festival circuit, with 238 majority and minority French titles making it into the Official Selections for the 10 major festivals, accounting for 26.5% of the films selected.
Of these, 63 were majority productions, 175 were co-productions, 149 received the support of France’s National Cinema Centre and 86 were by female directors.
Notable festival wins for French-language productions included the Silver Bear for Best Director for Claire Denis for Both Sides Of The Blade at the Berlinale, the Cannes Un Certain Regard Prize for The Worst Ones and the Silver Lion and Lion of the Future prizes for Alice Diop’s Saint Omer at Venice.
In a final piece of data, the study also examined the availability of French cinema on the streaming platforms, suggesting French films and standalone minority and majority productions accounted for 6.5% of content on international streaming platforms, against 38.8% for the U.S., 6.7% for India and 5.4% for the U.K.
As per tradition, Unifrance unveiled the figures as the kick-off for its annual Rendez-Vous with French Cinema in Paris, running January 10 to 17.
Marking its 25th edition, the event features its central film market (January 11-14) at which 41 local sales film sales companies will focus on their French-language slates for 2022, with 400 buyers from 50 countries due to attend.
The screening program features 81 titles, 43 of them market premieres and opens with the market premiere of François Ozon’s My Crime on Wednesday evening.
Unifrance, which incorporated audiovisual export agency TV France International into its structure in 2021, has also bolstered the Rendez-vous’s TV-focused activities to include showcases by broadcasters and audiovisual content companies including Arte, France Television, Newen Connect, Mediawan and Federation Entertainment.
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