EU Cinema Attendance Up, Box Office Down in 2016; Digital Conversion Nearly Complete

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Fri, 05/12/2017 - 12:29 -- Nick Dager

An estimated 991 million cinema tickets were sold in the 28 European Union member states in 2016. This is 13.3 million more than in 2015 and marks the highest level registered in the EU since 2004. Cumulative gross box office revenues measured in euros, however, declined slightly by 2.3 percent from 2015’s record high but remained above the €7 billion level for the second consecutive year amounting to an estimated €7.04 billion.

According to figures provided by Media Salles the digitization process in the EU is close to completion. By the end of 2016 a total of 22 EU member states had converted 90 percent or more of their screen base with only two territories registering digital screen penetration rates below 70 percent: Lithuania (64 percent) and the Czech Republic (53 percent). By the end of 2016 there were 29,848 digital screens were, which represents an estimated 93 percent of the EU’s total screen base.

Not adjusted for inflation, 2016 marks the second highest attendance level on record. The drop in GBO reflects a decline in average ticket prices in selected markets including Italy, Spain and Belgium, as well as declining box office results in Germany and – amplified by the depreciation of the British pound – the UK. The overall average ticket price in the EU consequently fell for the first time in the past five years, decreasing from €7.4 to €7.1. GBO growth across the EU was less homogeneous than in 2015 as GBO – measured in local currencies – grew in 19 and decreased in 8 of the 27 EU markets for which provisional data were available.

In contrast to 2015, when a rather limited number of US studio titles drove the growth in admissions, 2016 was characterized by the solid box office performance of a comparatively broad range of productions.

If in 2015 three individual breakout hits (Star Wars VII, Minions and Spectre) had sold more than 38 million tickets each in the EU, in 2016 no single title reached the 30 million ticket benchmark with the two top performing films, The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory selling 26.5 million and 24.7 million tickets across the EU respectively.

It is worthwhile observing that family animation films performed particularly well in the EU in 2016 accounting for eight titles among the top 20. Besides the top two films, other successful animation films included Zootopia (22.3 million admissions), The Jungle Book (20.5 million) and Ice Age: Collision Course (15.5 million). Another significant characteristic of the EU box office concerns the dominance of franchise films with 7 out of the top 10 and 15 out of the 20 top films being sequels, prequels, spin-offs or reboots such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (23.4 million admissions), Rogue One (21.7 million), Deadpool (19.8 million) and Suicide Squad (16.7 million).

Leaving aside European films financed with incoming US investment, Bridget Jones’s Baby became the most successful European film selling 16.3 million tickets in the EU in 2016.

Italian comedy Quo vado? (9.5 million) was the only other European production to rank in the top 20 as no other European film succeeded in selling more than 5 million tickets in the EU in 2016.

As in 2015, admissions growth was driven primarily by US films as their cumulative admissions increased by an estimated 50 million leading to an estimated US market share of 67.4 percent, up from 63.1percent of the previous year. With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as the only UK incoming investment film making it into the top 20, the market share of European films produced in Europe with incoming US investment fell from 7.1 percent to 3.6 percent. Admissions to European films remained comparatively stable in 2016 causing the market share of European films to drop slightly from 27.0 percent to an estimated 26.7 percent. This is the second lowest level in the past five years. Nevertheless, European films continued to perform well on several national markets, particularly in France (35.3 percent), the Czech Republic (29.5 percent), Italy (29.1 percent) and Finland (28.9 percent).

EU production levels showed a moderate upswing that confirms the growth trend of recent years, as the estimated number of European feature films increased from 1,663 to 1,740 productions in 2016 (4.7 percent up on 2015), marking a new record high. This figure breaks down into an estimated number of 1,133 fiction films (65 percent) and 607 feature documentaries (35 percent).

The increase in production activity was primarily linked to an increasing number of 100 percent national films, accounting for 75 percent of the total fiction production volume in 2016.