France Box Office 2016: Disney Titles Rule in Exceptional Year

Courtesy of Disney

Disney titles 'Moana,' 'Zootopia' and 'Rogue One' dominated the French box office in 2016, the second-best year of French ticket sales ever.

It has been a good year for cinemagoing in France, with over 213 million admissions in 2016. This represents a 3.6 percent increase compared to 2015, according to the CNC, the French Center of Cinematography.

That makes it the second-best result since box-office numbers started to be tallied in the 1950s, with only the 2011 tally of 217 million admissions topping last year's total. It's an exceptional number, then, especially in a year when terror threats in various French cities might have dampened people's desire to go out.

The biggest hit of the year was Disney’s animated November release Moana, which sold over 4.73 million stubs, closely followed by February release Zootopia, also from Disney, which sold just 25,000 tickets less. (In France, box-office numbers traditionally are counted in ticket sales, not gross revenue.)

Moana is still No. 2 in last weekend’s charts, just behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, also from Disney, which placed fourth in the French charts for 2016 with a total of 4.1 million admissions in the calendar year.

Animated films tend to do very well in France — last year’s top title was Minions — and 2016 was no exception. Universal’s The Secret Life of Pets managed to attract 3.7 million people, while Fox’s Ice Age: Collision Course and Disney’s Finding Dory both sold 3.4 million tickets. Two animated DreamWorks titles also managed to place in the top 20: Trolls (with 2.7 million) and Kung Fu Panda 3 (2.5 million).

The most successful French animated title was Ballerina, which was released Dec. 14 and already has been seen by over 1.4 million people. The Weinstein Co. picked up U.S. rights to that title in Cannes, with Elle Fanning slated to voice the lead.

The biggest local title of the year was the sequel The Tuche: The American Dream with 4.6 million admissions, good enough for third place in the year-end box-office charts.

That film was released by local giant Pathe, which also scored with homemade hits Camping 3 (3.1 million admissions), which came in at No. 12, and Back to Mom’s (almost 2.2 million admissions), which just fell outside of the top 20.

Other local successes include the comedy Penny Pincher! from Welcome to the Sticks actor-director Dany Boon and Two Is a Family, a remake of the Mexican hit Instructions Not Included, starring Omar Sy from hit phenomenon The Intouchables.

Interestingly, all French films in the country's top 20 were live-action comedies, while all the top U.S. films were superhero/fantasy tentpoles or animated films.

Attendance for local productions in France was up 3.1 percent in 2016 for a total of 75.17 million admissions. However, in terms of market share, there was a slight dip compared to 2015, sliding from 35.5 percent in 2015 to 35.3 percent in 2016.

This was due to several factors, including a record 692 films that were released and the strong performance of U.S. films, especially, as they attracted a total of 111.8 million people, up 5.5 percent compared to 2015 and the highest number since 1958.

Of all tickets sold, 52.6 percent were for a U.S. production, with the biggest titles also including The Revenant and Deadpool (3.7 million admissions each) and another Disney title, The Jungle Book (3.6 million).

Also noteworthy is the fact that several films that fared poorly in the U.S. did very well in France. These include Ice Age: Collision Course, Tim Burton's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (which placed 16th), the Divergent series' Allegiant (over 2.1 million admissions) and, in the art house realm, Woody Allen's latest, Cafe Society, which sold almost 1 million tickets.