Why 'Adventures of Tintin' Was a Win in Quebec

Weta Digital Ltd./Paramount Pictures

It's a cultural thing: The enduring popularity of the European comic book tale made Steven Spielberg's 3D adaptation outperform in the French-speaking Canadian province.

TORONTO - The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn bowing in Quebec two weeks before its December 21 wide release in the rest of North America paid off for Paramount Pictures and exhibitors in the French-speaking province.

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s animated big screen adaptation of Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin book series debuted in Quebec on December 9.

Hollywood films released in Canada usually represent eight to 11 percent of North American box office.

But Canada, according to Rentrak, represented 26 percent of the North American market for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn in December, or $9.2 million out of total box office of $35.6 million.

And most of that play came in Quebec.

“In Quebec, it (Tintin) was a superstar,” Ellis Jacob, CEO of Cineplex, Canada's biggest exhibitor, said Thursday.

There’s no surprise in the Quebec outperformance, really, after the tentpole opened strongly in France and elsewhere in Europe.

But it turns out Spielberg's 3D treatment of the European comic book tale was not as beloved in English-speaking Canada, and didn't come close to its international performance in the U.S. market, where the Tintin cartoon character isn’t as well known.

Up to February 2, Quebec still represented 13 percent of the domestic box office for The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, or $9.6 million of $73.6 million cume to date.

During Cineplex’s latest financial quarter to December 31, 2011, the biggest box office performers for the Cineplex were The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 1, which accounted for 9.4 percent of its Q4 ticket receipts, and Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which made up 6.1 percent of box office revenues.

That performance helped lift Cineplex Q4 earnings to $10.9 million, up 150 percent from $4.4 million in 2010, on total revenue of $241.7 million, up 0.5 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.