French Box Office Surges 19% in 2023, Bolstered by Healthy Mix of Hollywood Blockbusters and Local Releases

French Box Office Surges 19% in 2023, Bolstered by Healthy Mix of Hollywood Blockbusters and Local Releases

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The French box office jumped 19% in 2023 with an estimated €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) grossed from 181.2 million tickets, according to Comscore France.

Unlike in 2022, when the top 10 was exclusively dominated by U.S. movies, 2023 was bolstered by a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and French fare. Notably, “Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom” — Pathé’s big-budget comedy adventure inspired by the cult French comics — sold slightly more tickets than Christopher Nolan’s epic “Oppenheimer” from Universal.

Two other French movies ranked in the top 10: Studiocanal’s “Alibi.com 2,” the second installment of Philippe Laucheau’s comedy series riffing on adultery, and Pathé’s “The Three Musketeers: d’Artagnan” (pictured), the first of a two-part adventure saga based on Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel. The three top-grossers of 2023 in France were “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” the animated video game adaptation from Universal, Illumination and Nintendo; Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” from Warner Bros.; and James Cameron’s “Avatar: the Way of Water” from Disney and 20th Century Studios.

A sign that the French box office market is on a healthy track, the box office was overall less concentrated than in 2022, with the top 30 movies repping 44.6% of all ticket sales, compared to 48.3% in 2022.

“The theatrical business in France has recovered from the pandemic faster than most other countries in Europe and abroad,” says Eric Marti at Comscore France. “On par with Japan, France is down 12.8% compared with pre-pandemic times, based on the average of admissions sold between 2015 and 2019.” Other leading European markets such as Germany, Spain and Italy are still down 17%, 24% and 21.8%, respectively, compared with pre-COVID figures.

The National Film Board (CNC) also observed that the volume of U.S. film releases increased, with 81 movies compared to 68 in 2022. But this number is still lower than pre-COVID times, when an average of 127 U.S. films were released yearly between 2017 and 2019. The output of U.S. movies might decline further in 2024 due to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, which halted production for nearly half of 2023.

Yet, despite this reduction of U.S. titles released in French theaters, their market share last year remained stable at 41. 3%. The market share for French films was 39.8%, according to the CNC, which took into account all French films, notably minority French co-productions.

Besides “Asterix and Obelix: The Middle Kingdom,” “Alibi.com 2” and “The Three Musketeers: d’Artagnan,” a wide range of French films performed well in 2023. This includes Jeremy Zag’s splashy animated franchise “Miraculous” and arthouse fare such as Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Boy and the Heron”; “Anatomy of a Fall,” Justine Triet’s buzzy Golden Globe nominated film; and Jeanne Herry’s star-studded “All Your Faces,” about abuse survivors seeking restorative justice. Besides “Anatomy of a Fall,” other awards contenders that made France’s top 30 in 2023 include Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” and Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” with 1.56 million and 1.26 million tickets sold, respectively.

The box office numbers were calculated using the estimated average ticket price of €7.35 for 2023 provided by Comscore France.

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