UNIC Annual Report: Strong but Unequal Growth in the European Market

The European box office topped 8.1 billion euros in 2018, a 5.6% year-on-year decrease as admissions dipped 3.3%, according to UNIC’s annual report published on Monday, the first day of CineEurope. According to the European trade body, despite a slight decrease, 2018 marked the fourth consecutive year that European cinemas crossed 1.29 billion admissions.

UNIC’s 38 European nations, which include Russia and Turkey, are responsible for 22% of the global box office. 2018’s success reiterates “the continued cultural, social and economic importance of cinema-going for Europe today and its key position on the global stage,” said UNIC’s CEO, Laura Houlgatte, in her keynote speech at CineEurope.

France regained its status as the leading cinephile European country, with 201.1 million admissions, in front of Russia with 200.5 million admissions and the U.K. with 177 million. 2018 was a record year for the U.K., where admissions reached their highest levels since 1970, but also for Poland (59.7 million admissions) and Turkey (70.4 million), as attendance was bolstered by a strong slate of local productions.

With an average of 1.5 admissions per capita, Ireland (3.3), France (3.1), Estonia (2.8) and the U.K. (2.7) had the highest individual consumption of films in the region. Ireland and France were also the leaders in screen density with 108 and 91 screens per million inhabitants, respectively.

The Balkans witnessed the highest growth, both in terms of admissions and theatrical returns, increasing as much as 18% and 19.9% respectively in Serbia. However, German-speaking countries faced another consecutive dip as admissions and the box office strongly decreased in Germany (- 13.9% admissions / -14.8% box office), Switzerland (-12.9% /-12.5%), and Austria (-11.4% / -9.5%), partly because of  competition from the World Cup and record-breaking heat waves. With years of recession, Southern Europe faced similar declines with drops in Greece (-7.4% / -7.7%) and Italy (-6.9% / -5%).

The European box office was dominated by American content, with Bohemian Rhapsody becoming the top hit in 8 countries and Avengers: Endgame in 6. However, local productions gained momentum. The number one films in Serbia, Poland, Luxemburg, Lithuania, Denmark and Turkey were local. Turkey had the largest national film market share, rising to 62.5% compared to the average 29.4% for the region.

For Houlgatte, Europe’s commitment to cultural diversity is responsible for such a successful year at the box office. “For one, it reflects the key role of cinemas as spaces where cultural diversity can truly flourish. The significance of the cinema experience in terms of ensuring access to diverse and inclusive film content, via the highest-quality means possible, cannot be overstated. We pride ourselves on the diversity of our content in Europe.”

The report also highlighted the continuous investment of European operators to provide high-quality, state-of-the art experiences for their audiences. In particular, eventful, immersive and digitally connected experiences were on the rise in the area.

Despite last month’s European Union elections, which saw the rise of far-right populist parties, and the growth of streaming players that don’t abide by the rules of the game, Houlgatte reiterated UNIC’s commitment to protect European cinema in collaboration with European institutions, and—refraining from quoting Helen Mirren—saluted the industry’s continuous efforts to uphold longstanding business models. “Cinemas are not only here to stay—we’re here to grow and continue to bring audiences together all over the world to share in the unmatched big-screen experience. The clearer we can shout that message, the better.”

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