Today, the Centre National du Cinéma (CNC) convenes for their annual discussion on the diversity of French cinema. One of the main subjects this time will be the publishing of a study on the profitability of French films.
France produces a lot of high-quality films, but in contrast to most other countries, it’s a sector that enjoys a lot of financial support from the government by way of subsidies and the report on 2013 is due to show that only one in ten French films released last year were profitable.
This report is long awaited. Stark financial data on films isn’t always considered a priority in assessing the success or not of France’s high-quality and high-quantity film output and this is only the third such report in recent years. The last one was in 2008, showing that only 12% of films made in France were profitable, while another in 2004 showed that “between 12% and 17%” of French films were profitable.
This time, the study (carried out on behalf of the CNC by online news channel BFM Business) shows that only 10% of French films released in 2013 will have been profitable – mostly comedies.
The twenty films with the largest budgets (including Michel Gondry’s fantastical Mood Indigo and the horse-rider biopic Jappeloup) made no profit so far, although some of them have yet to have releases outside of France.
The most profitable French films of 2013…
1. La Vie d’Adèle (Blue is the Warmest Colour)
Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche and the winner of last year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, its budget was a relatively modest €4 million, but it brought in an audience of almost a million in France alone, giving it a super margin of 219%. Winning the main prize at Cannes, getting fulsome and unanimous praise from critics and featuring some very frank scenes of lesbian erotica all helped this film get over two major handicaps that might have sunk any other film: namely a running time of three hours and a certain amount of acerbic comment from young leading lady Léa Seydoux against her director.
2. Les Profs (The Teachers)
This screwball comedy about a goofy crack team of teachers whose mission it is to raise the bac (Leaving Cert) success rate in a troubled school from 12% to 50% was a big hit with the teenage set and many more besides. Its budget was €11.8 million but it got four million people falling off their cinema seats in France, giving it a stellar 196% profit margin. It was the most viewed French film in France in 2013.
3. Neuf Mois Ferme (Nine Month Stretch)
Directed by, written and starring Albert Dupontel (who might be best known to Irish viewers for his deadly serious role in the controversial “irreversible”) this fast-paced comedy about a straight-laced 40-year-old judge who surprisingly finds herself pregnant with someone from the wrong side of the law hit the right note with the French public in 2013, bringing in two million viewers on an average-sized budget of €7 million. Profit margin – 164%.
4. Les Garçons et Guillaume, à Table! (Me, Myself and Mum)
Another comedy and another film featuring a talented director/writer/actor (this time Guillaume Gallienne playing both the fictional Guillame and his mother). It cost €8 million to make but is already a runaway success since its November release, having made two million French people laugh and still counting.
5. Amitiés Sincères (Sincere Friendships)
Despite the presence of heavyweights such as Gérard Lanvin and Jean-Hughes Anglade, this light comedy drama had a relatively modest budget of €5.25 million. It attracted an audience of almost one million cinema-goers, making it profitable to the tune of 146%.
And the least profitable French films of 2013…
1. Le Premier Homme (The First Man)
The dunce’s cap (in terms of profitability at least) goes to this adaptation of an Albert Camus novel by Italian director Gianni Amelio. Starring Jacques Gamblin and Denis Podalydès, the film swallowed a fairly substantial budget of €10.3 million but only attracted 36,000 bums on seats. At a rate of 2%, it was first in line as the biggest commercial failure of 2013.
2. Attila Marcel
Sylvain Chomet’s film comes in second place in the Flops of France 2013. Even the untimely death of leading actress Bernadette Laffont three months before the release couldn’t save a film that won the favour of a number of critics. Only 44,000 turned up to have a look at a film that cost €7.2 million and ultimately recuperated just 3% in cinema tickets.
A flop on this occasion for Gérard Lanvin in this period drama directed by Ariel Zeitoun. It must be noted that the film was only released on the 18th of December but it’s off to a very poor start, with only 104,000 cinema-goers for a film that cost €15.75 million.
French film, English language and directed by renowned Australian director Brian de Palma. Even with all that, the film tanked at the box office in France, with only 132,000 dispassionate viewers. The producers then released it in the US, where it only managed to recuperate $40,000 in ticket sales. Long story short, this €18 million movie brought in just 4.3% of its budget.
5. Intersections (Collision)
Another French film in English: this time, set in Morocco and directed by the American David Marconi. Its relatively frugal budget of €8 million was not modest enough to make it profitable and no more than 64,500 cinema-goers got to experience it on the big screen in France. In America, the film went straight to video and its estimated failure rate is at 4.7%.