Record-breaking French comedy set to sink "Titanic"

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - 14:58

Paris, April 08: A French comedy targeting prejudice against the country's north has smashed box-office records to become France's most successful film ever and could be set to sink US blockbuster "Titanic" as all-time French champion.

"Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" ("Welcome to the Land of the Ch'tis") has pulled in more than 17.4 mn viewers since its release February 27, the film's producer and distributor, Pathe, said Monday.

The previous record for a home-grown box-office hit was the classic 1966 comedy "La Grande Vadrouille" starring Louis de Funes, which was seen by 17.3 mn people.

"This is fantastic," said Pathe's head of distribition Henri Demoulin.

"Now we can steam ahead and sink the boat," he said in reference to "Titanic", the most successful film ever released in France with 20.7 mn entries.

Directed by and starring comic Danny Boon, the film takes aim at the prejudices about the Nord Pas de Calais region bordering Belgium to reveal the warmth of its people.

It tells the story of a southerner forced by his company to go north and who finds, once he has mastered the impenetrable accent, people who open their hearts to strangers.

The nickname "Ch'ti" emerged during World War I when soldiers from the region were teased by comrades about their prononciation of ch'est ti, ch'est mi instead of c'est toi, c'est moi (it's you, it's me).

Boon put the film's success down to a French "need for something fraternal, that brings people together."

He told reporters: "French comedies are often pretty cynical, we laugh quite cruelly at things, and the film is the opposite of that."

Shot on an 11-mn euro (USD 17 mn) budget, the film has so far grossed 99 mn euros.

"Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" is to be offered to international buyers at next month's Cannes film festival under the English-language title "Welcome to the sticks".

It will also be shown at the opening of the "City of lights, City of angels" festival in Los Angeles on April 14-20, with Hollywood already rumoured to be interested in a remake.

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First Published: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 - 14:58

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