France best selling albums ever: Titanic Soundtrack by James Horner (1997)

Impressively, Titanic remains the most successful movie of all-time in France with almost 22 million persons seeing it on theaters. This is especially incredible considering how big is the local movie industry. Avatar, at 14,8 million, and the Lion King, at 10,7 million, are second and third among most seen international movies of the last 40 years, showing how out of this world Titanic result is.

Movie success doesn’t grant soundtrack sales yet although getting Celine Dion singing the only single of it certainly helps. This movie smash did translate into soundtrack smash in the case of Titanic. In fact, this album destroyed the competition during the first quarter of 1998, leading charts for 14 weeks.

Sales every week were so massive that even Johnny Hallyday new album Ce Que Je Sais, that shipped 200,000 units upon release, was unable to dislodge it, satisfying itself with four weeks at #2. Titanic soundtrack sold 600,000 units within’ its first five weeks (Le Monde, 28/2/1998). Véronique Sanson for one week and then Madonna‘s Ray Of Light for seven weeks faced exactly the same fate.

In May, the album started to slow down as did the movie. Short-lived for sure, the album was over 1 million by early April yet. Remaining Top 10 until June and then decelerating until leaving charts in early 1999 except in the VHS release that bumped it to #15 in October, the album still added some more sales over the month.

By the end of 1998 year, it charted as the year second seller. This is quite a precious fact since it was behind Notre-Dame De Paris Musical, for which sales are tracked at 1,7 million for that year, and ahead of Louise Attaque eponymous debut, which sold 1,5 million in the period, implying Titanic sales in-between those two figures.

On SNEP 1998 year end report at MIDEM which was covered by Le Monde on 27/1/1999, we learned several facts. One of them was that 117,7 million albums were sold. A second of them was that classical music accounted for 8,3% of the market. A third is that this share was partially due to Titanic as without it the share of classical music was only 6,8%.

All facts put together imply Titanic sold 1,5% of the market, some 1,77 million units. This total most likely includes the 200,000 sales managed by Back To Titanic secondary soundtrack released after the smash of the first one.

Except was very small revival in 2008 after the 10 years of the movie, the album hasn’t been a good catalog seller. In 1999 sales were already quite modest under the 50,000 mark. The revivals and reissues added to the few copies sold on standard years add 70,000 units to the soundtrack in our century.

Net shipment as of the end of 2015 is estimated at 1,690,000 copies.

As usual, feel free to comment and / or ask a question!

Sources: SNEP, IFOP, Billboard, Libération, Le Monde.

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