The legendary Speaker of the US House of Representative Tip O’Neil famously said that “all politics is local.” The same can be said for European cinema statistics.
With US in the doldrums and China booming in 2014, the just released UNIC Update on Cinema Exhibition in 2014 highlights a fragmented continent and mixed fortunes at the box office. Not all the data is in yet and the full figures will only be confirmed by UNIC in the spring, but there is enough to make for interesting reading.
As has been the case in recent years, cinema-going across UNIC territories varied significantly in 2014, primarily due to the moderate performance of international films and some very strong local titles in certain countries. Total admissions for EU countries (where data was available) increased by 0,7 per cent compared to 2013, while total admissions for all UNIC territories (incl. EEA, Russia, Turkey) increased by 1,6 per cent.
Where local box office performed strongly in Western Europe it was typically on the back of local comedies, such as France’s “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon dieu?” and Spain’s “8 Apellidos Vascos”.
However, in Russia, Eastern Europe and Turkey the good box office was the result of a combination of strong domestic titles (all top five titles in Turkey were local films) and the growth in the total number of screens and expansion of the exhibition business as a whole.
French cinema exhibitors – riding on a wave of successful local films – reached beyond the 200 million visitors’ mark and increased admissions by 7,7 per cent. Poland (BO +9,3 per cent/ admissions +11,9 per cent) and Turkey (BO +29,5 per cent / admissions +21,8 per cent) enjoyed equally positive results based on successful local films and have in recent years developed into resilient growth markets. Spain, after enduring consolidation for several years, increased its admissions by 13,6 per cent and box office by 3,0 per cent.
But it many Western European territories even a strong local title like Denmark’s “Fasandræberne” were not enough to lift the markets into positive year-on-year growth territory.
The UK (BO -2,4 per cent / admissions -4,9 per cent) and Germany (BO -4,6 per cent / admissions -6,4 per cent – preliminary figures) experienced decreases in box office and admissions. Several Scandinavian countries also experienced moderate market performance despite some strong local titles (DK: BO -6,3 per cent / admissions -10,6 per cent; FIN: BO -3,3 per cent / admissions -5,1 per cent; NO: BO -1,2 per cent / admissions -6,1 per cent). Italy, due to a comparatively positive year in 2013, experienced a decline in box office (-7,1 per cent) and admissions (-6,1 per cent).
Ireland and UK were telling examples where the success of “Mrs. Brown’s Boy D’Movie” in the former and “The Inbetweeners 2” during the summer and “Paddington” during the Christmas holiday for the latter were not enough to save the box office from a telling decline.
The data demonstrates that Hollywood titles remain the bedrock of BO performance, with only Turkey having more half the box office come from local films (58.4%), with France coming second with 44%. Nordic countries film industries performed well in terms of with around a quarter of the box office coming from local productions in both Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (no data for Iceland).
Year-on-year change is not available for France, but it will be interesting to see if the enforced discount ticketing for children will have a significant impact when data is released.
With US titles having dragged down the box office baseline the flip side of the coin in that a strong slate of US studio franchise films (Avengers, Bond, Fast & Furious, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, etc.) is expected to life the European box office, regardless of how local titles perform.
The industry looks forward to a busy and exciting release schedule in 2015 that will be full of promising European as well as studio titles including the new James Bond film Spectre, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron as well as animated pictures Minions and Inside Out.
The tragedy for Europe is that a local comedy that performs well its home territory rarely has a significant impact in other European territories with which it does not share a common language.
In the case of France’s “Qu’est-ce qu’on a fait au bon dieu?”, which had a decent BO run in Germany, the film will not even be shown in UK or US cinema “because it has been rejected by film distributors who deem it politically incorrect and possibly racist.” So it looks like European film integration still has some way to go before all Europeans laugh at the same thing in the cinema.