The EU gets its due: Market share rises for European films


In 2012, attendance for European Union films grew by 12% year on year, amounting to around 313 million admissions, boosted by Skyfall, the latest installment of the James Bond franchise. The British secret agent’s new outing, a majority U.K. co-production, brought the market share of European films within the EU to 33.6%, the highest level of the century.

For many years now, EU box office has struggled to break the 30% market share threshold. 2012 saw European films getting 33.6% of total admissions, more than a third of which were for non-national European films and an increase of 5.6% in comparison with 2011, corresponding exactly to Skyfall’s market share. In a sense, as a British hero with U.S. support, James Bond has occupied the space left empty by the vanishing of Harry Potter.

Aggregate figures for the EU represented, more than ever, a mathematical artifact, as there were remarkable differences among European countries. Attendance fell by 2.2% within the Union, down to 933.3 million admissions. Countries like Finland (19.7% growth) or Romania (+15.4%) bucked the downward trend. As for the larger markets, the U.K. remained stable and Germany grew by 4.3% on the previous year. Although France sold the highest number of tickets in the EU (203.4 million), attendance fell by 6.3%.

This drop in admissions did not prevent gross box office from reaching, for the second year running, a record high of 6.47 billion euros. This was achieved thanks to the hike of ticket prices (2012 average was 6.9 euros) due to 3D releases.

Decline of the “incoming investment” film market share
Skyfall, a British film with solid support from a U.S. major studio, was the undisputed king of the world box office with 44 million admissions throughout the European Union and 36 million in North America. It became the highest-grossing Bond installment of all time. It was followed at a distance by American blockbusters such as Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn–Part 2. This confirms the trends of franchise success, with 10 of the films within the top 25 being sequels.

With 22 American films within the EU box office top 25, the 62.8% U.S. share of the European market by admissions was slightly superior to last year (61.8%). The main category that decreased in 2011 was that of films produced in Europe with American incoming investment, down from 8.1% to 2.1% year on year. Non-EU, non-American films represented 1.4% of the total admissions against 1.8% in 2011.

Circulation of European films is slightly improving
Apart from Skyfall, two other EU films made it into the top 20. Intouchables became the most successful French film ever in the French market, with 21.4 million admissions between 2011 and 2012, just losing to Titanic at the finishing line by a fistful of admissions. More importantly, the film went beyond borders, ranking at the top of the box office in most EU markets (i.e., #1 in Germany and the Netherlands, #3 in Poland, #4 in Italy and Spain). With 18.5 million admissions in EU countries other than France, Intouchables drew 46% of its European admissions from non-national markets, an exceptional rate for a French comedy. Intouchables thus became the most successful non-English-language production of all time in the international market. However, it was another French film (this time in English), Taken 2 (#17 in the EU), that made it into the American top 20 alongside Skyfall. Also shot in English, the Spanish disaster film The Impossible (#26 in the EU) was the fourth most successful European film of the year, mainly due to the domestic market. Therefore, it comes as no surprise it became the highest-grossing local production in Spain ever.

Production of EU fiction films rises, but documentary production falls by 10%
A landmark for EU production volume was set in 2011 with 1,336 films shot. Despite the fact that 1,299 films were produced in 2012 (37 less than the year before), this was mainly due to a rather slight drop in documentary production, with features at full steam throughout 2012. Quantity aside, the anatomy of film production changed compared with 2011; average budgets dropped in most of the main production countries, such as Spain and France, and overall spend was drastically reduced in places like the U.K. In addition, several larger production countries showed a trend in film budgets toward the upper and lower extremes. Equally, there was an increase in international co-productions as a form of feeding the fire at times of lower domestic investment and, in many cases, important cuts in public support.

Three out of four European theatres are now digital
With 74% penetration within the EU, the digital rollout has entered its final stage. As a whole, the EU had crossed the point of no return with 21,693 digital screens by the end of 2012, which represents a growth of 36% from 2011. Here again, each country progressed a different speed. While Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium and Finland are fully, or almost entirely, digitized, Lithuania, Greece and Slovenia are still behind the eight-ball, with less than 25% penetration. The leading digital markets by number of screens were the U.K. and France, whereas other big territories such as Germany, Italy and especially Spain are below the EU average of 74%.

Top 5 Digital Countries
1. France: 5,150 digital screens, 92% penetration
2. United Kingdom: 3,538 d-screens, 93%
3. Germany: 3,134 d-screens, 68%
4. Italy: 2,112 d-screens, 65%
5. Spain: 1,800 d-screens, 45%

Source: Media Salles, OBS

This article highlights key findings of the European Audiovisual Observatory’s latest report. Visit their website at