European cinemas show overall growth

European Update

Love was in the air on Feb. 14, as UNIC and MEDIA Salles both reported some lovely numbers for European cinema-going in 2017. Although all stats published so far—and mentioned in this summary—are still preliminary, with some data remaining to be collected and certain countries offering estimated figures, “2017 was another year of growth for the European cinema industry.”

The International Union of Cinemas further noted that total admissions for all 37 member territories increased by 2.1% to more than 1.3 billion visits. This was the result of “both cinema operators’ continued investment in audience-development initiatives and a slate of highly successful local films across Europe,” UNIC stated. “As has been the case for previous years, however, box office was mainly driven by international titles.”

The respective strengths of local titles did, in fact, determine fluctuations across the more established Western European markets. Positive highlights are France experiencing its third best year of the past 50 years, despite losing around four million spectators (-1.8%); record box office and attendance in the United Kingdom (+2.5% and +1.4%, respectively); and Russia, with over 200 million moviegoers, becoming “the biggest UNIC territory in terms of admissions.” Also crossing a milestone—of more than 70 million admissions—was Turkey, rising 22.1% as more and more new cinemas opened.

MEDIA Salles reported 1.349 billion tickets in 36 countries as the Milan, Italy-based organization noted “different trends emerge” across different areas. The 18 Western countries, with a total 881.9 million admissions, reveal a dip of 1.5%, losing over 13 million spectators. The spread is quite wide, with increases of up to 6% in some countries and drops as high as 10% in others. By contrast, cinemas in the remaining 18 countries issued 447.4 million tickets, compared to the 406.4 million in 2016 (plus 10.1%).

UNIC spoke of “varying fortunes in Southern Europe and Scandinavia” and hailed the “assertive Central and Eastern European markets.” Poland added another record year to the history books (with three local films in the top five for a market share of 23.2%). In Slovakia, admissions increased by more than one million, as the Czech Republic enjoyed its second-best performance of all time and Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary “all experienced similarly positive results.”

MEDIA Salles added information about “territories that increased more than average” throughout 2017, with the Serbian Republic taking the lead with a rise of 27.7%, and the neighboring Slovakian Republic with an 18.1% increase. For the first time, MEDIA Salles presented the figures for Georgia, the Ukraine (UNIC member territory since July 2017) and Montenegro, with growth rates of 12.4%, 3.4% and 2.4%, respectively.

With all that, admissions per capita for all UNIC territories remained at 1.6 visits per year. France and Ireland experienced the highest rates of cinema-going (both at 3.3), as “the industry looks forward to a busy and exciting release schedule in 2018.” For UNIC, the lineup is “full of promising European as well as international titles.”


Cinema for Peace Honors Worthy Films

“Let’s make our planet great again!” On Feb. 19 in Berlin, Germany, the Cinema for Peace Gala “honored some of the year’s best movies,” bringing together filmmakers, politicians and activists from around the world. The Post was voted “The Most Valuable Film,” beating out other worthy contenders including Battle of the Sexes, The Big Sick, Call Me by Your Name, Darkest Hour, Dunkirk, First They Killed My Father, The Florida Project, In the Fade and Wonder Woman.

In line with the winning picture, “the rights of the free press” were one theme for the evening, organizers noted about the 17th annual event. Taking place at Bebelplatz, where 85 years ago Nazis burned more than 20.000 books, one of the night’s keynote speakers was Daniel Ellsberg. “Civil courage is a too rare courage,” said the man behind releasing the Pentagon Papers, appealing to media and the public to scrutinize governments.

Originally introduced at the gala by Leonardo DiCaprio and Mikhail Gorbachev, the “International Green Film Award” was given to Jane, the Producers Guild Award-winning film about Jane Goodall. The leading advocate for the preservation of wildlife and an UN ambassador of peace received a special Honorary Award celebrating her “lifelong work devoted to studying and protecting chimpanzees.” The “Justice Award” was presented to The Breadwinner and this year’s “Doc Award” to Cries from Syria, appealing to the world to stop the war in Syria.

Addressing current attempts at fostering a film industry without fear and harassment, Cinema for Peace invited the heads of Germany’s equality platform. ProQuote Film is calling for more jobs for women in the film industry and a chairwomen for the Berlin Film Festival, beginning 2020.


Kinepolis Continues Three-Pillar Strategy

At the risk of causing a number-crunching burnout, we are reporting on another good year for a leading circuit. In 2017, Kinepolis Group posted 9.4% higher turnover, with 6.2% more guests counting 25.3 million admissions, the Belgium-based exhibitor reported. “The continued implementation of Kinepolis’ three-pillar strategy and premium product innovation” helped to alleviate “a changeable and often less successful film program. The integration of acquired cinemas and realization of the intended improvement potential is going according to plan.”

The rise in admissions was driven by acquired and newly opened cinemas in France (Rouen and Fenouillet), the Netherlands (Dordrecht, Breda, Utrecht) and Spain (Granada). Also adding to the tally are ticket sales at Canada’s Landmark Cinemas, effective Dec. 8, the Group noted. On Valentine’s Day, Eddy Duquenne, CEO of Kinepolis Group, and Bill Walker, CEO of Landmark Cinemas, launched the eight-screen, all-recliner multiplex at Jensen Lakes Crossing in St. Albert, Canada.

At home in Belgium, the Court of Appeal made a judgment not to allow the decision of the Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) “to relax the behavioral measures imposed on Kinepolis” since 1997. On May 31, prior conditions had been lifted, allowing Kinepolis Group NV to “open new cinemas in Belgium without prior approval” from the BCA. Other behavioral measures, such as the need to obtain prior approval for the acquisition of existing Belgian cinemas or the prohibition to request exclusivity or priority from film distributors, were maintained for another three years. According to the news release, two Belgian cinema groups had appealed against the May decision, with the Court of Appeal deeming “the reasoning of the Belgian Competition Authority insufficiently motivated” to cancel the building component of the behavioral restrictions.

While the BCA will have to review its decision, “Kinepolis regrets the decision of the Court of Appeal and has confidence in the Belgian Competition Authority with regard to the further treatment of this case.”