For those of us in the cinema industry this past week illustrated that old Aesop’s Fables idiom; “Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true!” Three years ago exhibitors were grappling with whether they needed to close their movie theatres due to a global pandemic. A year later many of those same theatres were still closed and while they had reopened by 2022, there were few new releases for them to program.
Thankfully, those dark days of COVID closures are behind us and business is picking up for movie theatres again in a big way, as we here at Celluloid Junkie, who cover such trends, can surely attest. Just in the past week alone we’ve posted updates from four different continents and at least two different major industry events. Our conversation with Wim Buyens, the CEO of Cinionic, kicked off the week and he had a lot to say about where the future of film projection is headed (think laser). Of course, Cinionic is the official projection partner of the 73rd annual Berlin Film Festival (Berlinale). On Tuesday, Karen Krizanovich gave us a complete rundown of what we can expect at this year’s festival.
Then, before we could even catch our breath, Patrick von Sychowski was filling us in on the second Cinema Vision 2030 conference held on the even of the Berlin Film Festival. This one-day event featured international speakers discussing the issues and challenges that matter most to cinema operators all over the world. Yet, if there was ever a sign that the cinema business was recovering from the pandemic, it had to be the dueling preliminary reports highlighting Europe’s 2022 industry data from both the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and the European Audiovisual Observatory.
Both announcements, made one day apart, featured attendance and box office figures from last year that, though not entirely identical down to the decimal point, were at least humming the same tune in the proper key. If anything, the two organizations proved how hard it can be to collect and analyse data in a territory with 27 different countries who vary in how they submit figures; attendance vs. box office. To say nothing of the fact that now the United Kingdom, long an important movie market, is no longer in the European Union forcing two sets of figures to be published by each organization; one with and one without the UK. That’s a minor side effect of Brexit few brought up during the nearly five years it took to for the UK to leave the EU.
In short, the reports published by both organizations show that attendance and box office was up in 2022 over 2021, which wasn’t hard given how many theatres were closed the previous year. For the combined territories the Observatory has attendance reaching an estimated 643 million admissions in 2022, a 63% increase over the previous year, or 249 million more tickets. Remove the UK from the equation and EU attendance drops to 525.8 million last year, which is 205.7 million better than in 2021, or a 64% increase.
UNIC on the other hand will publish official figures this spring, but currently has 2022 attendance up year-over-year by 36% in the territories it tracks with box office rounding out at about EUR €5.6 billion (USD $6 billion). The latter represents a 55.6% increase over 2021.
Both organizations however, also pointed out that attendance and box office has not yet fully recovered to the annual averages seen before the pandemic, between 2017 and 2019. In 2022, the Observatory says admissions in the EU and UK were off by 34.5% from the pre-pandemic time period for a loss of about 338.9 million tickets. Those numbers don’t change much when extracting the UK – a decrease of 281.7 million tickets, or 34.9% lower in 2022.
Hollywood titles drove a good percentage of the box office throughout the EU (and yes, the UK) with films such as “Top Gun Maverick,” “Avatar: The Way of Water,” “Jurassic World: Dominion,” “Minions: the Rise of Gru,” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” topping most charts. As in other territories around the globe, a lack of such titles being released is one reason attendance and box office are down in proportional amounts.
A data point which suggests exhibitors in some countries may be looking for suppliers of films outside of Hollywood is the percentage of local titles that made up admissions in certain countries. In France, local productions accounted for 40.9% of tickets, even though no single title made it into the country’s top 10 for 2022. France was followed by the Czech Republic in which 33.5% of audiences attended local releases, Denmark (26%) and Finland (25.2%).
To be sure, and speaking for those of us at CJ, even though it may be a mind-twister to untangle all the facts and figures coming in from UNIC and the Observatory, trying to decipher which figures are measuring in attendance and which in box office, which include the UK and which are just the EU, it sure beats reporting on which territories have imposted COVID restrictions on cinemas and which have allowed movie theatres to reopen.
In fact, we’re so busy these days, I nearly forgot to remind everyone that nominations are currently open for this year’s Top Women In Global Cinema. Please submit all nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org or via this form.
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Celluloid Junkie is the leading online resource dedicated to the global film and cinema business. The Marquee is our newsletter focused on motion picture exhibition; keeping industry professionals informed of important news, the latest trends and insightful analysis