In 2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s charmer Amélie began to break records inside France and out. In November that year, Miramax released it in the U.S. and it ultimately became the French-language film with the most admissions ever outside its home country. With 23.1M admissions worldwide, Amélie held its perch until this weekend, when another movie handled Stateside by Harvey Weinstein leapfrogged over it. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano’s Intouchables, the story of an unlikely friendship between a millionaire quadriplegic and a young man from the other side of the tracks, has now clocked 23.2M entries globally, French export body Unifrance confirms to Deadline. That figure surpasses the nearly 20M tickets Intouchables sold for studio Gaumont during its theatrical run in France. It’s broken records in other territories and still more people will see it outside France in the coming weeks when it opens in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Scandinavia. In its 16th week in U.S. release, Intouchables has taken $11,570,960 at the box office. Amélie eventually earned upwards of $33M in the U.S.
Unifrance is quick to point out the French-language distinction because without it, Intouchables remains only the third-most-attended French film of all time. The top two spots belong to a pair of films bearing the Luc Besson imprimatur: Besson’s 1997 English-language Bruce Willis/Milla Jovovich sci-fi pic The Fifth Element, is still the French film with the most admissions (35M) outside France. The No. 2 spot is held by 2008′s Taken, an English-language film Besson produced and wrote but did not direct. It’s been seen by 31M outside France, says Unifrance, but sold only just over 1M tickets in France in 2008.
It’s hardly a shock that what plays in Paris doesn’t always play in Peoria — and vice-versa. Of the four films mentioned above, Intouchables may end up to be the one with the least disparity between its foreign and domestic performance. Of French films since 1945, it’s the second all-time champ in France behind Welcome To The Sticks. But Amélie is down at No. 20 having sold just 8.52M tickets domestically in 2001. At No. 28 on the all-time chart, The Fifth Element had 7.7M admissions in 1997. Taken, according to CBO-boxoffice.com, didn’t crack the all-time top 800.