Local fare boosts Gaumont figs

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PARIS -- French major Gaumont posted revenues of €131.1 million ($172 million) in 2006, a sizable 32% increase from 2005, thanks to strong performances for its films in theaters, on video and internationally, the company announced Thursday.

More than 10 million people saw Gaumont films last year, notably sentimental crowd-pleaser "You Are So Handsome" (3.5 million tickets sold), the Francis Veber-helmed comedy "The Valet" (3.1 million) and French James Bond "OSS117" (2.3 million).

DVD sales increased 11% owing to the popular video run of Valerie Lemercier's mockery of European royalty "Palais Royal!"

International sales were up 26%, due in part to the worldwide success of Michel Gondry's "The Science of Sleep."

The Europalaces group, which encompasses Gaumont and Pathe movie theaters, earned €413.7 million ($542.2 million) in 2006, compared with €381.2 million the year before.

The distribution division, currently in the process of separating from partner Columbia TriStar, has started 2007 off on a positive note with high numbers for January releases "Cashback" (120,000 admissions to date) and "Seeds of Death" (800,000).

"Sleeping Dogs Lie" hit French theaters on Wednesday, and Gaumont plans to release nine other films throughout 2007, including Stephane Allagnon's "Before the Storm," Christine Carriere's "Darling," Audrey Estrougo's "Ain't Scared," Michel Boujenah's "3 Friends," Alastair Fothergill's "Earth," Julien Leclercq's "Chrysalis," Djamel Bensalah's "Big City," Olivier Marchal's "MR73" and Sean Ellis' "The Broken."

Now headed by chief of the company's supervisory board, Nicolas Seydoux, following CEO Franck Chorot's move to become a full-time in-house producer, Gaumont has set 2008 dates for Daniel Cohen's now-filming "Les Deux Mondes" (The Two Worlds) and Isabelle Mergault's "Enfin Veuve" (Finally a Widow), which is set to begin shooting at the end of March.
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