LHollywood cinema, that old enemy of French cinema, is quietly withdrawing from dark rooms. And that’s not good news. For decades, the health of French cinema has been judged by a key statistic: the market share of American films. Published by the National Cinema Center (CNC), the indicator is amply commented on.
There are the good years, those where the national cinema, thanks to a popular success, heroically manages to push back the Californian wave. And then there are the other, numerous, where Hollywood blockbusters break out and take the lion’s share of the theaters’ receipts.
The year 2022 is no exception to this statistical tropism. The share of American films was 40.5%. Extremely rare fact: French cinema, with a 40.9% market share, exceeds American cinema.
There was a time when this outstanding performance was celebrated with patriotic pride. This was the case in 2006, the year of Tanned 3then in 2008, the year of Ch’tis, the only two times this statistical anomaly has occurred in thirty years. This year, however, the numbers are communicated clinically, slipped into the middle of a paragraph that notes that “American blockbusters are ahead”.
It is that French cinema does not have the heart to celebrate. A quarter of the market has soared with the pandemic. We reassure ourselves by telling ourselves that we are doing better than the others, that certain health restrictions still remained at the start of the year, that it was “a year of transition”. We pretend not to know that an extraordinary success saved the day at the end of the year and we convince ourselves that things will be better tomorrow. The CNC, decided to see the glass half full, announces it to us in a recent press release: 2023 “Let us hope for even better attendance”.
The Covid-19 crisis, however brutal it may have been for cinemas, cannot make us forget that the French film industry has long been subject to headwinds. In two decades, the traditional distribution channels have been severely disrupted. The DVD was the first to sink. Canal+ has had dark days. TF1 and M6 tried to merge to better face competition from major global digital players – in vain.
A limited number of expensive films
Engaged in a fierce economic fight, Netflix and its competitors have fallen out of favor in the financial markets. If they happen to produce a few (rare) French works, that is not their priority.
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