Luc Besson's 'Lucy' Helps Drive French Film to Record Year

Universal
Scarlett Johansson in 'Lucy'

The Scarlett Johansson film was the country's biggest export hit in 20 years.

Ticket sales for French films abroad more than doubled last year, much of it on the back of Luc Beson's juggernaut Lucy, the country’s biggest international hit in 20 years.

French film exports jumped 119 percent from 2013, according to film promotion body UniFrance — a box office total of $699 million (€604 million) and 111 million tickets sold worldwide — making it the country's second-best export year since 2012’s The Intouchables scored big, kicking French film ticket sales to an all-time high of 144 million worldwide.

The Scarlett Johansson-starring actioner sold just under half of those, bringing in $350 million (€302.8 million) and selling more than 53.6 million tickets around the globe. It did particularly well in the U.S., Canada, China, Mexico and Russia.

"There is proof that miracles can reproduce and moreover relatively quickly," said UniFrance president Jean-Paul Salome.

Aside from the two banner years, the annual average is about 80 million tickets sold over the past decade.

Culture-clash comedy Serial (Bad) Weddings was the year’s biggest box office hit in France, and brought in a haul of $58 million (€50.2) million internationally, doing particularly well in Germany, where it landed at number three in the neighboring country's yearly box office.

The year also marked a new record for ticket sales for French films in China, with more than 17 million tickets sold for the eight films released in the territory.

Two of those were Nicole Kidman-starrer Grace of Monaco, which sold over 800,000 tickets and Beauty and the Beast, starring Lea Seydoux, which had more than 500,000 admissions for the fairy tale.

Beauty and the Beast was the third-best performing French film of the year, bringing in $29 million (€25 million) internationally with 4.4 million tickets sold.

While some of Lucy's international success is due to its English-language and the star power of Johannson, French-language films were also up 26 percent. UniFrance, however, called the situation of French exports to the U.K. “alarming,” and noted several films that did not live up to their international potential, including the star-packed Blood Ties, with Clive Owen, Marion Cotillard and Mila Kunis, and The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet, starring Ewan McGregor, both of which were English-language.

Other French-language hits abroad cited by UniFrance included family-friendly Belle and Sebastien and Nicholas on Holiday, comedies Supercondriac and Guillaume Gallienne's Cesar-winner Me, Myself and Mum, and biopic Yves Saint Laurent.

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