A promising start: EU box office rises after a downturn in 2013


Provisional Q1 figures from 11 European Union markets indicate that admissions in the EU increased in the first three months of this year, compared to Q1 2013. Quarterly admissions increased significantly in three out of the five big EU markets, namely in France (+18.9%), Italy (+13%) and Spain (+8.7%), outweighing smaller decreases in Germany and the U.K. On a cumulative basis, admissions in these five markets increased by 5.6%.

As these markets represent around 75% of total EU admissions, it can be assumed that total EU admissions increased in the first quarter. This would also be backed up by data from five additional EU member states which registered a growth in cinema attendance, including the Netherlands (+4.8%), Sweden (+17.9%) and Greece (+8.9%).

Outside of the EU, admissions showed an even stronger increase, with the Russian Federation and Turkey registering respectively a 18.6% and 30.9% increase in quarterly admissions year-on-year.

EU gross box-office hike came to a preliminary halt in 2013
EU gross box office declined in 2013 for the first time since 2005. GBO takings in the 28 EU member states fell to an estimated EUR 6.29 billion, a 4.3% drop compared to 2012's record high of EUR 6.57 billion. Over the past five years, GBO growth has been primarily fueled by higher ticket prices, which kept box office growing despite falling admissions. This was no longer the case in 2013, when the average ticket price in the EU actually marginally decreased for the first time since films like Avatar kick-started digital conversion in 2009.

While the novelty factor of digital 3D blockbusters initially boosted underlying cinema attendance to 982 million in 2009, admissions have been decreasing more or less continuously since then. First they dropped to around 965 million in 2010 and 2011 before falling in a more pronounced manner to 945 million in 2012 and ultimately 907.1 million in 2013, the lowest level since 2005.

Admissions decreased in 20 out of the 28 EU member states, with only Italy registering a significant year-on-year increase in cinema attendance (+6.6 million). The overall drop in EU admissions was primarily caused by declining markets in Spain (-15.4 million), France (-10 million), the U.K. (-7 million) and Germany (-5.4 million).

As often in the past years, significant growth was only achieved outside of the EU. With admissions growing by 10.4% to 177.1 million tickets sold in 2013, the Russian Federation overtook the U.K. as the second-largest European market in terms of admissions. Box-office records were also broken in Turkey, with cinema attendance growing by 14.8% to 50.4 million admissions, the highest level in the past few decades.

Despicable Me, Hobbit and Iron Man sequels top EU charts in 2013
As in previous years, sequels and spinoffs featured prominently in the 2013 European Union box-office charts. Led by the latest installments of Despicable Me, The Hobbit and Iron Man, a total of 11 sequels/prequels/spinoffs made it into the top 20, seven of them into the top 10. It is interesting to note that 2013 was characterized by the lack of a pan-European breakout success and that the top films attracted significantly fewer viewers than in the past years. For example, Despicable Me 2, the top-ranking film in 2013, generated “only” 25.4 million admissions. This compares to 42.7 million admissions for Skyfall (2012), 38 million for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2 (2011) and 51.9 million for Avatar (2010). The comparatively low admission figure for top-ranking films most likely contributed to the overall decline in EU box office in 2013.

Les Misérables became the most-watched European film (8.9 million tickets sold), ahead of Italian runaway success Sole a catinelle, a father-son vacation comedy which sold over eight million tickets, more than any other film in recent history in Italy.

Market share for European films down to 26.2%
Based on provisional figures, estimated market share for European films in the EU dropped from 28.9% to 26.2% in 2013. This figure excludes European films produced in Europe with incoming U.S. investment, which—in the absence of runaway successes like Skyfall and the Harry Potter franchise—registered their weakest market share in recent history, taking just over 1% of total admissions. Market share for U.S. films, on the other hand, increased from 62.8% to an estimated 69.1%, the highest market share in the past ten years. The increase in market share for films from other parts of the world is largely due to the success of The Great Gatsby, which is counted as an Australian majority co-production.

EU film production levels rise
EU production levels continued to grow, albeit in a moderate manner, to an estimated 1,546 feature films in 2013, 18 films more than in 2012. This represents yet another record high and breaks down into an estimated 1,075 feature fiction films and 471 feature documentaries. Fiction films therefore accounted for about 70% of total film output. But growth was driven primarily by a higher number of feature documentaries, up 15 films, as the production of EU fiction films has remained stable.

87% of EU screens converted to digital
According to figures provided by MEDIA Salles, a total of 4,390 screens were converted to digital projection systems in 2013, bringing the total to 26,035 digital screens. This means that by the end of 2013 about 87% of the EU's total screen base had been digitized. A total of ten EU member states, including France, the U.K., the Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Denmark, have converted practically all their screens. Digital screen penetration in Germany reached 90% compared to 75% in Italy and 70% in Spain. Only seven member states registered digital screen penetration rates below 70%, including the Czech Republic (51%), Slovenia (45%) and Greece (27%).

This article summarizes highlights from FOCUS 2014 World Film Market Trends, prepared by the European Audiovisual Observatory for the Cannes Film Market. Visit their website at www.obs.coe.int