French comedy helps boost cinema fortunes

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PARIS -- A French comedy has helped put a smile on the face of theater owners in Gaul for the first three months of the year with 58.8 million tickets sold during the first trimester of 2008, a 14% jump from the same period last year, the country's movie theater organization the FNCF said Friday.

The jump in admissions is due mostly to the colossal success of Dany Boon's "Welcome to the Land of the Shtis," which sold over 15.3 million tickets during the period, and is expected to break the top boxoffice record for a French title set by Gerard Oury's 1966 war comedy "La Grande Vadrouille," with 17.2 million admissions.

Thomas Langmann's "Asterix at the Olympic Games" sold 6.7 million tickets during the same period, followed by Isabelle Mergault's "A Widow at Last" with 2.2 million admissions.

Despite a minor decrease in ticket sales in January and February (-5.2% and -1.5% respectively), it was March madness in Gaul with more than 25 million tickets sold, a 51% increase from March 2007 and the best monthly result for the Gallic boxoffice since 1980.

Spring discount film festival the Printemps du Cinema broke records in its 9th edition, which ran from March 16-18 and attracted more than 3.5 million movie-goers in three days, a 35% jump from 2007's fest.

Other popular releases in the first trimester included "National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets" which sold 1.9 tickets, Cedric Klapisch's ensemble drama "Paris" (1.6 million tickets), Sean Penn's "Into the Wild" (1.3 million tickets) and Doug Liman's "Jumper" (1.1 million tickets).
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