The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) released preliminary estimates for 2022 box office and admissions across the territories it covers. UNIC’s overview represents the first wide-ranging assessment of European cinema’s performance last year. Detailed final data for each UNIC territory is set to be released later this year. European cinemas saw a further strong recovery in 2022. While final figures for several territories are still to be confirmed, UNIC estimates that admissions increased at least by 36.5% and that total box office for the year will exceed $5.9 billion– a rise of 55.6% in Europe compared with 2021. In the EMEA region as a whole, box office sales increased from $4.7 billion to $7 billion, according to Gower Street Analytics.
Box office results for Austria (+96% compared with 2021), Czech Republic (+94%), Lithuania (+133%) and Slovenia (+149%) demonstrate the strength of the sector’s recovery in recent months. France, the UK and Germany witnessed box office increases of between 62% and 92.5% on the previous year, further reducing the gap on pre-COVID levels. Spain and Italy were up 50% and 81% respectively, although their recovery compared with 2017-2019 results appear slower than other European markets.
Compared with 2019’s record year for cinemas, estimated admissions in 2022 across Europe were down 40.3% and box office was an estimated 34.4% lower. In the EU and UK, estimated admissions and box office were 35.1% and 30.8% respectively lower compared with 2019. The figures were affected by factors including a lower number of US titles released in 2022 compared with 2019, COVID restrictions which lasted until June 2022 in some territories, a very slow start to the year, a weak summer slate due to a lack of new releases, and the impact of the Russia/Ukraine war.
Box office was mainly driven by major US titles including Avatar: The Way of Water, Top Gun: Maverick, Jurassic World: Dominion, Minions: the Rise of Gru and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Top Gun: Maverick, 2022’s highest-grossing film, took $1.48 billion at the global box office, topping the charts in the UK ($102.9M) and Sweden ($11.3M) while coming second in France ($59.6M) and Germany ($38.9M). Avatar: The Way of Water has taken more than $2.2 billion at the global box office to date, making it the fourth-biggest film of all time and proof of cinemas’ capacity to attract audiences and create global events. Local titles also played a key role in 2022’s success, most impressively in France (40.9% of market share), Czech Republic (33.5%), Denmark (26%) and Finland (25.2%). National market share by admissions in Slovenia was 18%, the highest since the country’s independence 32 years ago. Local productions also featured in the 2022 box office top 10 in Norway, Romania, and Spain.
National Cinema Days also helped boost admissions across a number of UNIC territories. In France, more than 3.2 million people enjoyed the big screen experience during the Fête du Cinéma, a performance 4% above average admissions for the three previous pre-pandemic editions. In Germany, the first Kinofest brought in almost 1.1 million visitors, the best weekend performance of 2022. In Italy, more than 1.13 million admissions were registered for the first Cinema in Festa, a 123% increase on the same weekend in 2021 and a 3.17 increase on the previous weekend. The first national Cinema Day in the UK and Ireland attracted 1.46 million and 153,000 visitors respectively. Greece, Norway, Sweden, Poland and the Netherlands were among other European countries which organized their own national cinema day.
Early results this year already confirm that positive trend. In January 2023, the EMEA region recorded the highest grossing month since the same month in 2020, with box office revenue at approximately $876.3M. Gower Street Analytics forecast box office revenue this year in excess of $7 billion (+7% on 2022) for the EMEA region and $29 billion (+12%) globally.
“The figures clearly show that European cinemas are on the road to full recovery. A constant supply of new and diverse titles will be crucial for continuing to drive box office and admissions forward in 2023,” said Laura Houlgatte, the chief executive officer of the UNIC.