The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the body representing European cinema trade associations and operators, has today released preliminary 2021 box office and admissions estimates for the territories covered by the organisation.
While the figures below are based on initial estimates, the overview provided by UNIC represents the first wide-ranging assessment of the performance of the European cinema sector in 2021. More detailed final data on the performance of each individual UNIC territory will be released later in Spring 2022. For additional information on specific territories, including periods of closure, please consult the UNIC research on the topic or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Audiences return to the Big Screen across Europe
European cinema admissions increased by an estimated 38 per cent in 2021, with over 590 million visits across the region. Box office reached an estimated €3.7 billion, an increase of 42 per cent on the previous year. These positive results amply illustrate the industry’s resilience and the eagerness of European audiences to return to the Big Screen.
At EU level – including the UK – over 400 million tickets were sold in cinemas, worth an estimated €2.9 billion at the box office, all this when most screens across the region were shut for the first half of the year and operating for the following six months under limited occupancy and additional restrictions.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the European cinema industry remains significant. Compared to results for Europe in 2019, a particularly successful year for the sector, 2021 admissions were still lagging 56 per cent behind, while box office was down by an estimated 57 per cent. Comparing results for the second half of 2019 with the same period in 2021, box office revenues for the territories where data is available were on average 35 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. Major territories such as France (-22 per cent for H2 2021 compared to H2 2019), the UK (-26 per cent), Russia (-29.5 per cent) or Poland (-24.3 per cent) nevertheless serve to demonstrate the strength of the sector’s recovery in recent months.
As has been the case in the past, box office was mainly driven by major international titles including Spider-Man: No Way Home, No Time to Die, F9: The Fast Saga, Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Dune. Spider-Man: No Way Home in particular served as further evidence of cinemas’ capacity to attract audiences and create global events even during challenging times, with over $1.77 billion grossed at the global box office as of today – the sixth biggest result of all time.
At the same time, and as was witnessed in 2020, local titles have played a key role in the recovery process. National films’ market shares were higher than normal years across the region, most impressively in France (40.8 per cent), Czech Republic (38.3 per cent) and Denmark (37.0 per cent). The Serbian biopic Toma managed to outperform Spider-Man: No Way Home, dominating at the box office in Serbia and neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is only with the support of local and international distributors that cinema operators will be able to confidently recover from this incomparable period of challenge. A strong and diverse film slate will be key to attracting audiences to the Big Screen.
The broad range of support mechanisms that have been made available to the sector in Europe have also been crucial, protecting livelihoods and covering some of the significant losses incurred by industry. But now is not the time for policy makers to ease those efforts aimed at ensuring the survival of local cinemas, whatever their size and location.
2022 will be a pivotal year for the industry. Leading industry analysts Gower Street Analytics have forecasted a tentative estimate of $7.8 billion (+75 per cent on 2021) and $33.2 billion (+55 per cent) for EMEA and global box office respectively. UNIC members are confident that the cinema industry will come back stronger from this crisis, and that we will continue to enjoy films together, on the Big Screen.
UNIC is the European trade grouping representing cinema exhibitors and their national trade associations across 39 European territories. More information available on unic-cinemas.org.