Awards for two French attractions at ‘leisure-industry Oscars’

Historical attraction park and Parisian museums topped the charts

The park receives over 2 million visitors each year
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A French theme park and museum have been awarded the top prizes for their shows at the world’s biggest ceremony for leisure and culture events.

The Puy du Fou theme park in Vendée earned the ‘world’s best show’ at the annual ‘Thea Classic’ awards show, which was held in Los Angeles last weekend and ranks thousands of entertainment venues across the world.

It won the accolade for Le Mime et l’Etoile, a performance based on the early era of filmmaking and the Belle Époque era in France.

“This award confirms the bold strategy of a 100% French company and demonstrates the universal dimension of the Puy du Fou: its model transcends cultures and heritages,” said chairman of the park Nicolas de Villiers, son of founder Philipp de Villiers.

The show cost around €20 million for the park to produce, and has quickly become one of its major attractions since debuting last year.

Paris’ centre Pompidou museum won the award for ‘best show including virtual reality’ for its piece on Claudette Colvin, a ‘forgotten’ member of the US Civil Rights movement.

Park is popular – but controversial

Puy du Fou, which is famed for its historical shows, previously won the ‘best attraction park in the world’ award in the 2012 version of the ceremony.

In 2023, it recorded 2.6 million visitors, its highest ever figure, and according to its website is the second-most visited attraction park in France after Disneyland Paris.

Spectacles include reenactments of gladiator battles, viking invasions, and contains entire replica villages from different periods in French history.

There are also a number of themed hotels visitors can stay in overnight, including one based on the infamous ‘Field of the Cloth of Gold’, the famous 1520 summit held between King Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France.

However, despite the park’s success, it retains a controversial status.

The founder of Puy du Fou, Philipp de Villiers, is often seen as far-right for his political views. He ran for the presidency in 1995, and then again in 2007 on a platform of anti-immigration and opposition to an ‘Islamisation’ of France.

Some people think Puy du Fou promotes an idealised version of France and that de Villier “has built a story about France as if the Revolution didn’t happen, or as if it was the worst thing that ever happened to France,” as historian Dr Emile Chabal claims.

Other academics have accused the park’s shows of ‘rewriting history’ to fit a right-wing narrative, with shows glorifying France and containing factual errors.

Read more: ‘France is no left-wing country - it is time to let go of that myth’

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the park was accused of being able to bend rules that limited the maximum number of people at a single gathering, due to an apparent ‘friendship’ between Mr. de Villiers and president Emmanuel Macron.

Read more: Controversy as French theme park allows 9,000 visitors

The park says that it reinvests 100% of its profits into expanding its current spectacles and opening new shows, and has created nearly 5,000 jobs in the Pays de la Loire region.

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