PARIS -- While the French film industry has been rattled by recent criticism of its government-supported financing system, it had a record-breaking year abroad.
Pushed by a trio of popular pictures -- Taken 2, The Artist and The Intouchables -- French film exports hauled in $1.16 billion (€875 million) internationally in 2012, a new record. Overall, French films sold a total of 140 million tickets in international markets last year.
Powered by the success of these three films, French films doubled their box office receipts and ticket sales over 2011. Promotional organization UniFrance cited more than 30 films that sold at least 500,000 tickets abroad as a sign of overall strength of the industry.
Taken 2 took in $355 million (€264 million) in 70 markets, performing best in the United States and Canada. Though in English, Taken 2 was produced by Luc Besson’s Paris-based EuropaCorp and made by French director Olivier Megaton.
The Intouchables is the most successful French-language film of all time in international theaters, smashing the previous record held by 2001’s Amelie. The inspirational drama brought home $269 million (€202 million) from around the globe in 2012.
Oscar-winner The Artist, meanwhile, brought home $102 million (€77 million) in addition to its best picture and other trophies at the Oscars and other awards.
Asterix & Obelix: God Save Britannia ($28.5 million), Carnage ($12.9 million), A Monster in Paris ($10.2 million) and Amour ($9.7 million) were also highlighted for exceptionally strong box office takes in 2012.
Amour is likely to continue to be a box office draw well into this year, as it is nominated for several Oscars, including both best foreign film and best picture. Though considered an Austrian film by the Academy due to the nationality of director Michael Haneke, Amour is a French co-production and was shot in Paris.
Emerging markets have traditionally favored English-language films, but UniFrance is hopeful that the success of the 2012 slate will encourage international exhibitors to show more French films.
The long-standing French system of cinema subsidies has come under attack since a scathing editorial by Wild Bunch co-founder Vincent Maraval was printed in newspaper Le Monde on Dec. 28. In the essay, Maraval called the industry “a disaster” due to high production budgets and overpaid actors. Citing several films, such as Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia, which cost more than $79 million (€60 million) to produce, Maraval said that even though their box office is good in absolute terms, the films are still economic failures and unprofitable.
His claims caused a media uproar, with several actors, directors and producers speaking out on both sides of the issue.
Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti has called for a meeting this coming week to discuss the subsidy system with UniFrance’s parent organization, the National Center for Cinema (CNC).