The 10 biggest French box-office hits in the US in 2017

Far behind the $500M at the box-office for Star Wars : The Last Jedi, some French-speaking gems still found their audience in 2017. Even though there were no surprise hits like we saw with The Artist and Intouchables in recent years, an English-speaking French film still managed to earn over $41M…

Before we go on with discussing the 10 biggest favorites for French-speaking films in 2017 in the US, it’s worth noting that, just like in the past couple of years, the most viewed French film of the year was an English-speaking flick produced by France’s own Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita). Besson was actually the one behind the camera of Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an ambitious space-opera with Cara Delevingne that failed to attract as many spectators as The Fifth Element, his biggest hit ever in the US. With “only” $41M earned at the US box-office, Valerian felt like a flop for the French production company, Europa Corp, who was hoping to start a franchise based on the French comic books.

1 – In 2017, the number one French-speaking film was Frantz, the black and white post WWI drama featuring Pierre Niney, who grossed $880,883 at the box-office, which represents approximately 100,000 movie theaters tickets sold*. A solid performance that proves once again that French director François Ozon, whose films always find a US distributor, still attracts American arthouse fans, 14 years after the massive success of Swimming Pool ($10M at the box-office). Frantz ranks overall 243 in the 2017 US box-office and 460 in the all-time box-office for foreign language films.

2 – It’s a surprise (and a delight) to see in second place, Lost in Paris, with $691,597, – even though it seems that a film always gets a boost at the box-office from having the word Paris in its title, this time at least the French Capital was also mention in the original title, Paris pieds nus, and wasn’t just added for marketing purposes. The success of this wonderfully eerie comedy from Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel should prove to distributors that a French film without any renowned French actors in its cast can still find its audience.

3 – Still playing in a couple of theatres nationwide, Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places (Visages, Villages) took advantage of its raving reviews and rather wide distribution thanks to Cohen Media to finish in third place, with $608,776 at the box-office, a number which should still grow in the first trimester of 2018. It’s great to see that Agnès Varda, who received an honorary Oscar in November, still has many fans of her work in the US. Now playing.

4 – With $603,582, which accounts for about 67,000 ticket sold, Sage-Femme (The Midwife) benefited most likely from the great performance of Catherine Deneuve, whose name always attracts press, theatres and arthouse movie aficionados.

5 – Who said France doesn’t do horror? Hollywood distributor Focus Features snatched the rights for Raw (Grave) right after its screening at the Cannes Film Festival and earned over a half million dollar with this coming-of-age story like no other. There is no doubt that after this mesmerizing first film, and with the current outcry for horror film worldwide, Julia Ducournau should be back soon in the US whether it’s for a French or an English-speaking film. The movie is now available on Netflix, read our review.

6 – GKIDS, who releases most of French animated films in the US, found its biggest hit with Ma vie de courgette (My Life as a Zucchini), which was nominated in the Animated Feature Film category at the 2017 Oscars. Selected in many a festival before a nationwide release, the movie finished its run with $309,766 at the box-office, attracting approximately 35,000 movie-goers.

 7 – Ranked 320 at the US box-office this year, the biopic Cézanne and I  (Cézanne et moi) earned $257,597 at the box-office but could have expected more as French costume dramas have been doing well recently in the US.

8 – Still playing in a few cinemas, Oscilloscope Pictures’ Polina reached $165,203 at the box-office, thanks to good reviews and possibly the presence of Juliette Binoche, even though the actress wasn’t at the center of the promotion for the film and wasn’t featured on the poster.

9 – IFC, which distributed The Unknown Girl (La fille inconnue) was probably expecting a little more than the $150,549 grossed by the latest film by the Dardenne brothers, as their last feature,Two Days, One Night – who definitely received a boost from Marion Cotillard's fantastic performance – easily passed the million dollar mark at the box-office three years ago.

10 – Distributed by Kino Lorber, Slack Bay (Ma loute) closes our top 10 with $112,621. A better outcome for niche director Bruno Dumont than his past two features released in the US, Li’l Quinquin and Camille Claudel, 1915.

Beats per minute (120 battements par minute), which was released late 2017, comes right behind the top 10 but could finish its run slightly over $100,000.

*The average cost of a movie ticket was $8,93 in 2017, a dollar more than six years ago and $4,34 more than two decades ago. 

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