‘Alibi.com 2’

France’s box office hit 181 million ticket sales in 2023, powered by combination of US hits led by The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Barbie, Avatar: The Way of Water and a few French twists, according to figures from the CNC.

This is a rise of 18.9% on 2022’s 152 million admissions.

Total box office gross is estimated to be €1.3bn based on an average ticket price of €7.2. The final total is likely to be even higher when the 2023 average ticket price is calculated mid-year.

While still 13.1% below the pre-Covid 2017-2019 average, the French box office resisted the aftershocks of the pandemic better than any other European territory, according to a study from Comscore.  UK and Ireland had a total tally of over £1bn for 2023  – but that is 22.1% down on the three-year pre-pandemic period average.

Germany’s annual ticket sales jumped 23.7% year on year but were 16.9% below the 2017-2019 average, Spain saw a 27.3% rise, but remains 23.9% below the pre-Covid mark and Italy’s box office rebounded by 63%, but with a 21.8% dip from the same pre-pandemic period.

According to Comscore, Japan is the territory that is coming back fastest,  with 2023’s total box office down just 12.9%  on the 2017-2019 period.

China was still catching up in 2023 with a 22.5% dip on pre-Covid numbers, and South Korea faced a 47.3% drop from the pre-Covid average.

 Even the US box office’s 2023 $9bn rebound is still 21.6% below the 2017-2019 average 

“We catch up more quickly in France because we have both French and American films, so when one is weaker, the other makes up for it,” said Marc-Olivier Sebbag, executive director of France’s National Cinema Federation (FNCF)

Local heroes

2023 saw several French titles attract audiences at home with three films in the top 10. “Cinema is an addictive activity,” Sebbag suggested. “The more people go, the more they want to go back. It’s important there are all different kinds of films being offered.” 

Eric Marti, general manager of Comscore France, said among the major markets, “France, Germany and Japan have remained more stable from the beginning,” but that France pulled through better than other territories as the year ended thanks to “a rare configuration of films that worked well together” including Wonka, Wish, Aquaman And The Lost Kingdom and French films The Three Musketeers – Milady and Open Season.

However, with no blockbuster of the likes of Avatar: The Way Of Water in 2022 or Spider-man: No Way Home in 2021, December’s ticket sales still fell 2.1% to 17.8 million admissions.

2023 top titles 

Super Mario Bros

While it was a Barbie world at the global box office in 2023, Universal’s Super Mario Bros. Movie was the biggest ticket seller in France (7.2 million tickets), Greta Gerwig’s Barbie (Warner Bros.) took the number two spot with 5.9 million tickets and Disney’s December 2022 release Avatar: The Way Of Water followed with 5.3 million garnered in 2023 among its total 14.2 million admissions.

Popular French titles included Pathé’s live action local-language adventure Guillaume Canet’s Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom (4.6 million), crowd-pleasing comedy sequel Alibi.com 2 (4.3 million) and The Three Musketeers – d’Artagnan (3.5 million) and its sequel Milady released in December and already going strong with nearly 1.2 million admissions 

Universal also set the annual box office ablaze with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (4.4 million) while Disney released five films in the top 20 for the year: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (3.6 million admissions), Elemental (3.3m) Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny with 3.1 million, The Little Mermaid with 1.8 million and Wish with 1.7 million.

Palme d’Or winner Anatomy Of A Fall broke into the top 30 a strong 1.3 million admissions for Le Pacte. Local arthouse titles that also connected with audiences included Studiocanal’s All Your Faces (1.2m) and Animal Kingdom (1.1m), and Gaumont’s François Ozon-directed The Crime is Mine (1.09 m and Father And Son (1.2m).

End of year releases Sony’ Napoleon (1.6 m), Wild Bunch’s animation The Boy And The Heron (1.5m) and Warner Bros’ Wonka (1.4m) are already among the top 30 films of the year.

2024 predictions

Theatrical distribution in the territory faces challenges in 2024, particularly in the first third of the year due to the ripple effects of the strikes in Hollywood that have seen many US tenpoles postponed for later in the year or even 2025 releases.

Comscore’s Marti estimates ticket sales will be between 175-180 million in the year ahead. While 2022 saw “huge falls and big jumps,” he said that 2023 was “less stop-and-go.”

“It’s always hard to rev up the market again after a big fall, so if we can maintain more balance in 2024, we’ll reach our objective.”

Sebbag said the second half of the year looks to be “busier, but more uncertain,” but that he remained optimistic overall.

“This time last year, everyone said that streamers were taking over and audiences wouldn’t step foot in cinemas. We saw this year that people still want to go to the movies.”


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