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French Cinema Box Office Suffers Marked Global Downturn; Award-Winning Polanski Thriller 1 of Highlights

The Ghost Writer Pierce Brosnan Olivia Williams Kim CattrallThe Ghost Writer with Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, and Kim Cattrall: Well-regarded Roman Polanski thriller was an international (co-)French box office hit – to some extent.
  • French cinema performed modestly at the international box office in 2010, suffering a marked drop in attendance when compared to the previous year. The award-winning Roman Polanski thriller The Ghost Writer was one of its biggest successes, along with Pierre Morel’s From Paris with Love and Jacques Perrin’s Oceans.

French cinema box office: Lacking another Taken, French productions attracted far fewer international moviegoers in 2010

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

According to uniFrance, which promotes French cinema around the world, French productions and co-productions sold an estimated 57.2 million tickets internationally in 2010. That’s a 17.9 percent drop from the previous year.

The American market was largely to blame: 13 million tickets sold in 2010 vs. 23 million the previous year, or a 45 percent drop.

According to uniFrance, the key problem was that 2010 lacked a breakout French box office hit. You may not think of Taken as “French,” but the Pierre Morel-directed, mostly English-language thriller starring Oscar nominee Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, 1993) was chiefly financed by Luc Besson’s Paris-based EuropaCorp. In 2009, Taken alone sold an estimated 23 million tickets outside France.

Roman Polanski’s political thriller The Ghost Writer one of French cinema’s most successful international releases of the year

In 2010, French/part-French movies had far less international appeal. The biggest hits – each selling about 6.5 million tickets – were:

  • Roman Polanski’s English-language political thriller The Ghost Writer (France | U.K. | Germany), a European Film Award winner starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan that, in spite of its reported $60.3 million global gross, failed to break even at the box office.
  • Pierre Morel’s poorly received English-language action thriller From Paris with Love, starring John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and a flop in the United States. Reported global gross: $52.8 million.
  • Jacques Perrin’s documentary Oceans ($23.9 million in France; $19.4 million in the U.S. and Canada; $83.1 million worldwide).

Top French-language, French-made hits in the international market

A silver lining: Despite the overall attendance drop, French-language French films were actually up 11 percent compared to the previous year.

Apart from Oceans (narrated by Jacques Perrin in the original version), the two biggest French-language international hits were:

  • Luc Besson’s fantasy adventure The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec / Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, with 3.1 million tickets sold. In the cast: Louise Bourgoin and Mathieu Amalric.
  • Radu Mihaileanu’s comedy-drama The Concert / Le concert, with 1.8 million tickets sold. In the cast: Aleksei Guskov and Mélanie Laurent.

Curiously, despite the significant drop in attendance, revenues – €?330 million (approximately US$438 million) in 2010 – were down only 6.1 percent. That’s partly because French films performed particularly well in countries like Japan and Italy, where movie tickets are costlier.

Besides, ticket-price increases played a role as well, while the weaker euro likely made non-Euro Zone earnings bulkier than they would have been otherwise.

“French Cinema Box Office” endnotes

Unless otherwise noted, “French Cinema Box Office Suffers Marked Global Downturn; Award-Winning Polanski Thriller 1 of Highlights” box office information via

Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, and Pierce Brosnan The Ghost Writer movie image: Summit Entertainment.

“French Cinema Box Office Suffers Marked Global Downturn; Award-Winning Polanski Thriller 1 of Highlights” last updated in November 2022.

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