European Box Office up Twelve Percent Group Says

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Wed, 05/12/2010 - 20:00 -- Nick Dager

Based on provisional data available the European Audiovisual Observatory has estimated that gross box office takings in the European Union in 2009 increased by 12 percent year-on-year to around EUR 6.27 billion the highest level on record. Box office growth was fuelled by a six percent surge in cinema attendance to an estimated 981.1 million tickets sold in 2009 up from 925.3 million in 2008 and by increasing average ticket prices largely thanks to premium prices for 3D screenings. It was the latter in combination with the release of a significant number of big-budget 3D blockbusters such as Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Up or Avatar which convinced many exhibitors to install digital 3D projection systems in their cinemas thereby increasing screen space for these films and allowing them to realize their full potential. All three titles made it into the top five films of the year selling a cumulative 86 million tickets throughout the EU. Theatrical markets grew in almost all territories across the European Union in 2009. Gross box office measured in Euro increased in 21 out of the 23 EU member states for which data are available with only Ireland and Latvia registering a decline. Admissions increased in 20 EU markets while decreasing in only six. 2009 was also a year in which the European cinema landscape was more than ever dominated by blockbusters with the number of films generating more than five million admissions increasing from 34 to 42 and market share for the top 100 films increasing from 69 percent to 75 percent. Theatrical markets which performed particularly well in terms of admissions were Germany (+ 13.1 percent) France (+5.7 percent) and the United Kingdom (+5.6 percent). 2009 saw EU production levels continue to grow though at a slower pace to a new record high. Based on the provisional data available the Observatory estimates that a total of 1 168 feature films including feature documentaries were produced in the 27 member states of the European Union in 2009 up 28 films from the previous record year 2008. Growth in production activity was primarily the result of a strong increase in German fiction films increasing from 96 film releases in 2008 to 129 in 2009 (+33). Differences in production measurement methodology between European countries make it difficult to evaluate the effects or non-effects of the economic crisis on overall production output in 2008 and 2009. National production data may report on films receiving funding going into production completed or released in cinemas. As a possible financing penury would primarily affect projects going into production rather than film releases it remains to be seen to what extent the financial crisis has affected European production activity. Nevertheless the high in 2009 production data suggests that the European public funding system has prevented production levels from dropping significantly. Overall fiction films accounted for an estimated 80 percent of total European production volume feature documentaries for around 20 percent. The number of European fiction films increased from 859 in 2008 to 887 in 2009 (+28) while the production of theatrical feature documentaries remained stable at 281 productions. With 194 feature films released in 2009 including 65 feature documentaries Germany became for the first time in recent history the country with the highest production output in Europe followed by the former leader France where production levels fell from 196 features to 182. Based on available data the European Audiovisual Observatory estimates that European films captured a provisional market share of 26.7 percent of total admissions in the European Union down from 28.2 percent in 2008 and the lowest level since 2005. Market share for European films produced in Europe with incoming US investment such as Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince decreased slightly from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent. Market growth was primarily driven by US blockbusters in 2009 illustrated by the fact that market share for US films climbed from 65.6 percent to an estimated 67.1 percent the highest level since 2003. While many European countries had registered record national market shares in 2008 market shares for national films declined in 18 out of 23 member states for which data were available in 2009. Exceptional market shares for local films were nonetheless achieved in Germany with national films led by Wickie und die starken Männer Die Päpstin and Zweiohrküken reaching a record market share of 27.4 percent and Sweden where thanks to the Millenium trilogy admissions to local films increased by 81.5 percent year-on-year and local market share climbed to 32.7 percent the highest level on record. 2009 also proved to be a good year for Spanish films which generated 22 percent more admissions than in 2008 and took a market share of 16 percent. French films remained the most successful films in the EU market in terms of admissions despite seeing their market share dropping from 12.1 percent in 2008 (driven by the extraordinary success of Welcome to the Sticks) to 8.7 percent. Thanks to strong results in their home market German films ranked second taking 4.1 percent followed by UK productions accounting for 3.9 percent of total admissions in the EU. 3D blockbuster Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs topped last year’s European charts selling around 40.2 million tickets in 2009 followed by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince taking second place with 33.9 million admissions. The two chart leaders were two out of a total of eight sequels / spin-offs to figure in the top 20. Three out of the top 5 films were produced and released as 3D films: Ice Age 3 Up and Avatar. Leaving aside the latest Harry Potter installment which is a UK inward investment film financed by a US studio only one European film made it into the Top 20. Slumdog Millionaire sold over 16 million tickets taking second place in the list of top European films followed by the first installment of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy Män som hatar kvinnor (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) which sold almost 6.6 million tickets in the EU and became the most successful Swedish film since the Observatory began compiling pan-European admissions in 1996.