When journalists, sales agents and acquisition execs from key territories take to Unifrance’s Rendez-Vous in Paris, which runs Jan. 10-17, international growth will be on everyone’s mind. If Gallic exports never did reach pre-pandemic highs in 2022 — the first year, we should note, that many theatrical markets operated without interruption — the local industry hung on all the same.
At home and abroad, franchises and feel-good fare drove theatrical returns. The comedy “Serial (Bad) Weddings 3” banked 2.4 million local admissions, ending the year as France’s top-grossing domestic title and landed an additional 1.3 million ticket sales in neighboring countries, while the Studiocanal family title “The Wolf and the Lion” opened in more than 50 territories.
In the U.S., arthouse stalwarts Kino Lorber, Cohen Media Group and Sony Pictures Classics pulled jewels from festival slates, with Kino Lorber set to open Pietro Marcello’s Directors’ Fortnight opener “Scarlet” and Sony Pictures Classics to release the Cannes-acclaimed, Mia Hansen-Løve directed “One Fine Morning” in the months to come.
Meanwhile, Super — a boutique label run by hip distributor Neon — picked up France’s international Oscar submission “Saint Omer” shortly after the film won the Silver Lion in Venice, and will release the Alice Diop-directed title on Jan. 13 — right in the heart of Oscar nomination voting.
“The ongoing evolution of the market requires constant monitoring,” says Orange Studio head of sales Charlotte Boucon, who brokered the deals for both “Serial (Bad) Weddings 3” and “Scarlet,” among others.
“French family films are widely recognized across the world and continue to do relatively well, and at Orange Studio, we look to have at least one strong theatrical player per year. Obviously, we’re happy to have more, but such films require a lot of support, especially in terms of international distribution.”
Calling such fare “part of Orange Studio’s DNA,” the sales exec believes that crowd-pleasing comedies can leave a substantial global footprint. “Internationally, there is always an appetite for high-concepts,” Boucon continues. “And this remains a genre able to launch franchises.”
Orange Studio will launch the family adventure “A Cat’s Life” at this year’s Unifrance Rendez-Vous, joining a swath of Gallic outfits that use the annual showcase to flex more commercial muscles.
“[The Rendez-Vous] doesn’t compete with Berlin, Cannes or Venice, and that’s not at all our goal,” says Unifrance’s managing director Daniela Elstner. “We are a market, with films that don’t necessarily go to those festivals, but that do well in theaters and that sell very well.”
Still, as the Rendez-Vous marks its 25th year and as it stands to welcome a larger in-person delegation than in the two previous editions — this year’s showcase carries all the more industry heft — the event will signal such gravitas by opening with the world premiere of François Ozon’s “The Crime Is Mine.”
“For the past few years, we’ve been asked to open with a giant premiere,” Elstner says. “We will welcome buyers from all over the world, and we want them to leave the screening knowing the promise of French cinema, alongside the very artists who will be on-hand.”
Led by rising stars Rebecca Marder and Nadia Tereszkiewicz and backed by Isabelle Huppert and Dany Boon in supporting roles, “Crime,” set in 1930s Paris, involves a film producer and murder, and calls to mind the effervescent highs of Ozon’s “8 Women” and “Potiche.” “The Crime Is Mine” could very well best the international record of last year’s opener, “Simone: A Woman of the Century,” which scored more than 2 million admissions in France and sold to Samuel Goldwyn Films stateside.
“We want to showcase films that bind and connect,” Elstner says. “François Ozon’s films are known for their success and box office performance, which fits with our mission. We have to satisfy our buyers, so that they leave thinking to themselves how wonderful French cinema can be.”