2021 winners of French films in international theaters and festivals
In 2021, with the exception of box office receipts down slightly, admissions, the number of French films broadcast and international releases are higher than in 2020. While these last two indicators are gradually approaching COVID-19 levels, the same is not true for the number of spectators, half the average for the decade (40 million, excluding exceptional successes exceeding 10 million admissions). At the end of the year, the film industry was therefore in a position to begin a real recovery and, if the offer of films began to align with the past, the challenge was to increase attendance by attracting the public. in the rooms. Encouraging signals have come from the success of some productions on the big screen in 2021, proving the centrality of theaters in a film’s release cycle. The return of American studio films has particularly boosted global viewership. While their absence in 2020 has left an empty space that has benefited film productions from other countries, including France, they have come back strong on the international scene. Unsurprisingly, France’s global market share fell to 1.8% of admissions and 2.2% of box office receipts, below 2020 levels (2.2% and 3%), but at above 2019 levels (1.6% and 2.1%). The box office of French films has not progressed as much as the world or American box office, but France remains a world player.
It is interesting to analyze the distribution of viewers of French films according to title and geographical origin. The year 2020 saw the dominance of mainly French productions (69.4% of admissions) and those in French (77.2%), comedies (32.8%) and European markets (70.1%) . 2021 was characterized by completely different trends. French minority productions generate a number of annual admissions equivalent to French majority productions, to the point of reaching their highest level of the decade: 46.7%, i.e. nearly one in two admissions (even though they represent average one in five since 2012). The three films that brought together more than a million moviegoers, The father (22.5% of annual admissions), Pinocchioand Bigfoot family belong to this category. Moreover, between them, they accounted for a little less than half of the 2021 box office. EuropaCorp success, thanks to the The father and Pinocchioand The Wolf and the Lion.
Whereas the distribution of entries by genre sees its first three confirmed (comedy, drama and animation), the balance within it begins to change. For the first time in 10 years, fiction has become the genre that attracts the most spectators internationally, at the rate of one in three! Here too, the presence of The father in the ranks of the drama genre had an effect. It was a bad year for comedy, which saw its lowest attendance record of the decade, and lost a hit title, while animation lost ground, although consolidating a more important place. than previously. If they attract more moviegoers, the adventure/police/thriller and fantasy/horror/science fiction genres do not find their last seasons of glory. No big-budget, high-potential production has appeared on the big screen: it is the so-called “medium” productions (with budgets between 5 and 10 M€) and those with a budget between 10 and 20 M€ which did well (accounting for three out of four admissions).
It is well known that French cinema is closely linked to neighboring European markets. For the sixth year since 2012, it is on the European continent that it achieved the greatest volume of admissions (56.3%), but the weight of the region fell by nearly 14 points in one year, and the Western Europe is the only geographic area where audiences for French films are down compared to 2020. It should be noted that many key markets, such as Germany and Italy, did not experience a return to theaters only in the second half. In addition, no high-potential comedy, a genre that has more difficulty exporting outside of Europe but performs best there, has been proposed. Africa and the Near and Middle East, America, Asia and Oceania were therefore the main players in the increase in international admissions of French titles (however, the average ticket price is often lower in these areas than in Europe, which explains the decline in overall attendance (revenues), thanks to productions with French minority funding. With the exception of Oceania, history tells us that it is traditionally foreign language productions, especially action and animation, that perform well in these markets. In 2021, this role would go to the Oscar-winning actor The fatherfantastic feature Pinocchioand animated film Bigfoot family.
We must not draw hasty and negative conclusions about the French films on offer and their potential. First of all, French cinema is one of the most multicultural in the world and takes advantage of its identity and the high number of co-productions to exist internationally, without forgetting its rich panoply of diverse genres. Second, predominantly French-speaking productions have built strong careers in 2021 (e.g. My donkey, my lover and me in Oceania, Titanium in North America, and The Three Thugs in Africa) and others have been exported to more than 30 markets (Aline, the voice of love, Annette, Benedetta, Around the world in 80 daysand Titanium). Thirdly, the closure of French theaters for more than six months has led to a reduction in the supply of new films whose foreign careers have sometimes stretched over more than a year: The treasure of little Nicolas and Little momreleased in French theaters in 2021, would achieve their best results in 2022, while (bad) marriages in series 3, whose release had been postponed several times, would boost the French box office in European markets. In addition, the solid French heritage catalog continues to be broadcast on foreign screens, the country is a constant and well-established presence at festivals, and a network of French professionals is committed to creating and distributing French cinema and cooperates with foreign professionals, many of them Francophiles. The future is certainly uncertain, but French cinema is not giving up and is always awaited by international film lovers.
For the third time, this annual report includes a study devoted to the place of French films in international festivals, where the “commercial” life of films often begins. In 2021, the organizers had to deal with reactions from the film industry and measures adopted by governments; moreover, Cannes has made a comeback after a year’s absence. 2021 was a landmark year for France, as the country occupied a place that had never been so important among the 10 festivals studied over the last decade. France is the one with the most films selected (202, one out of five), the most screenings (287, one out of four) and the highest number of awards (43) in 2021. With the exception of the three festivals North American, it presents more films than the United States in seven festivals and is particularly present in Cannes, Locarno and Venice. It should benefit from the increase in the overall volume of titles selected in 2021 (+95 in one year, of which 40% produced in France) and from a reduction in the number of American titles. This leadership would not be achieved and maintained over the years without taking into account the multicultural nature of French cinema, since three out of four films are the result of co-productions between 2.5 countries on average, for a total of 75 foreign partner countries. France can be proud of two historic results in 2021. First, the number of French films directed by women rose to 33% of the total, corresponding to the world average for all nationalities. Second, he won both the Golden Palm and Golden Liona rare phenomenon but not a first: what makes this feat unique is that the winners, respectively Titanium and Eventwere made by two women, Julia Ducournau and Audrey Diwan, who thus marked history.
Key indicators of French films abroad in 2021
- 1.8 million admissions and 113.3 € million box office receipts.
- 9.5 million admissions for mainly French productions and 8.2 million for those who speak French.
- 940 films on display and 1,889 new releases.
- Three films registering more than one million admissions and 32 100,000 entries.
- Western Europe (6.7 million admissions) and China (2.2 million) were respectively the first geographical area and the first country in number of spectators.
At international festivals:*
- 202 French films selected and 287 presentations.
- France was the leading country in number of films, presentations and awards won.
- A French film out of Three was led by a women.
- A palm of gold, a golden lionand 41 other official awards.
* The 10 festivals studied: Bafici, Berlin, Busan, Cannes, Locarno, Rotterdam, San Sebastián, Sundance, Toronto and Venice.
Since its creation in 1994, Unifrance’s annual report collects and analyzes the results of French films abroad, and its content has evolved and been enriched over the years. In 2021, with the widening of the scope of the various studies, it was decided to separate cinema works, short films and XR, and audiovisual works in order to devote specific publications to them. The report on French films abroad includes an overall analysis of their theatrical results, 73 country sheets (+3, including around fifteen enriched with a mini SVOD profile), and an analysis of their presence at international festivals. Among all the existing national film industries, none can boast of a similar study, which makes Unifrance’s annual report unique.
Unifrance members can download the 2021 review of French films in international theaters and festivals below. The report will be available to everyone on February 5, 2023.
Last update : November 14, 2022 at 12:26 p.m. CET