Despite the Covid pandemic French cinemas ended 2021 with a better-than-expected result, drawing in nearly 100 million spectators – nearly 50 per cent more than the year before.
Cinema owners are breathing a sigh of relief to know that people are still drawn to the movies, despite 2021’s rollercoaster Covid restrictions.
And yet, some 96 million movie tickets were sold in 2021, according to statistics released by the National centre for cinematography, or CNC, on Thursday.
The 47 percent increase from 2020 is still far from the record 213 million tickets sold in 2019, before Covid.
The National federation of French cinemas, or FNCF, says this second year of the pandemic has remained difficult for cinemas, which received a lot of government aid to stay in business.
Concerns of a bottleneck with a backlog of unshown films all released at once were unfounded, according to the CNC, referring to research by the analytics company Comscore, which also noted that France had the lowest drop in cinema attendance of the five largest European countries, and even less than has been recorded in the United States.
Spiderman to the rescue
The high numbers have come at the end of the year, with the CNC reporting “almost normal” December ticket sales - 20.43 million, close to the 22.68 million sold in 2019.
This is driven by the latest in the Spiderman franchise, No way home, released in France on 15 December.
While the latest James Bond film and Dune were also in the top 10 of France's 2021 box office hits, French films pulled their weight as well with Kaamelot, BAC Nord, and Les Tuche 4 in the rankings.
Comscore notes that ticket sales were concentrated on the box office hits, which represent 50 per cent of sales in France. This is a trend that had started even before the pandemic, and raises concerns about how to draw in and retain audiences for smaller films.