UNIC, the trade body representing European cinema trade associations and operators, has announced preliminary data revealing the European theaters’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021. The figures show a 38 percent increase in cinema admissions across the region, with 590 million visits to a movie theater throughout the year. The bump represents an estimated €3.7 billion in box office, a 42 percent improvement over 2020 numbers. The region’s annual box office, however, is still well below pre-pandemic levels, finishing the year 57 percent behind 2019. Admission levels remain similarly affected, concluding the year 56 percent below 2019 figures.
Cinemas in the EU—including the UK—sold over 400 million tickets in 2021, bringing in an estimated €2.9 billion at the box office. These numbers were achieved despite frequent interruptions from local governments, including extended closures throughout the first half of the year and operating restrictions through the second half of 2021.
The last six months of 2021 provide a better comparison to 2019 levels, taking into account a more consistent slate of theatrical releases and decreased restrictions for moviegoing across Europe. During that span, box office revenues across Europe were on average 35 percent below the same period in 2019. Several of the region’s top markets showed a more robust recovery over the second half of the year, including France (-22% compared to H2 2019), the UK (-26%), and Russia (-29%).
Local titles have over-indexed in the recovery process, with the market share of national films coming in higher than usual due to the instability in the 2021 studio slate. Domestic titles from markets like France (40%), the Czech Republic (38%), and Denmark (37%) rank the highest in the market share across their respective markets.
2022 is poised to be another year on the recovery path for European cinemas. Research firm Gower Street Analytics forecasts a 75 percent bump in box office for the EMEA region in 2022, representing approximately $7.8 billion in revenue. Gower Street’s global box office forecast for the year is currently tracking at $33.2 billion, 21 percent lower than 2019’s record tally.