The International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), the trade association representing cinema operators and their national associations across 39 European territories, has today published its Annual Report on key cinema trends in the region in 2022/23.
After two disrupted years, 2022 marked a step-change in the recovery of the European cinema industry, sending a clear signal of the desire of audiences to return to the big screen when presented with a strong and diverse film slate and allowing cinemas to re-affirm their cultural and social significance within local communities.
European cinema admissions soared by an estimated 36.2 percent in 2022, with nearly 809 million visits across the region. Box office reached €5.7 billion, an increase of 53.8 percent on the previous year. At the EU level—including the UK—over 655 million tickets were sold in cinemas, worth an estimated €5.0 billion at the box office—increases of 62.7 percent and 68.5 percent respectively. These numbers were achieved despite some cinemas facing restrictions during the initial months of the year, along with rising energy costs, the impact of the Russia/Ukraine conflict, and a still limited film supply.
Notably, box office results for Romania (+142% compared with 2021), Lithuania (+133.5%), Slovenia (+182.3%), Germany (+93.5%) and Austria (+96%), exemplify the strength of the sector’s recovery in the past year.
Local European releases have been crucial, with countries such as France (41.1%), the Czech Republic (33.5%), Turkey (46%), Germany (27%) and Denmark (26%) leading the way in terms of national films’ market share.
Between 2022 and the first half of 2023, several European and international titles managed to break box office records, with Avatar: The Way of Water becoming the highest grossing film of all time in the EMEA region with almost $800 million at the box office. Triangle of Sadness, 2022’s Cannes Palme D’Or winner, was released in over 40 international markets, globally recording revenues of over $25 million.
Gower Street Analytics have recently increased their forecast for the global box office for 2023 to $32 billion, a 10 percent improvement from the initial estimate of $29 billion announced back in December 2022.
Globally, the first quarter of 2023 was 27 percent ahead of Q1 2022 and double the first quarter of 2021. In the EMEA region it was the most successful quarter since the start of the pandemic, with a remarkable 32 percent increase compared to the same period last year. In Q1 2023 the Netherlands was above the pre-pandemic average box office by 3.3 percent, Austria was up by approximately 2 percent, and Norway was back to the same box office results as 2019. And this positive trend continued in May with the international market (excluding China) reaching the same box office level as the comparable month in 2017-2019. Spain and Italy, for example, achieved box office results close to 2019.
These phenomenal achievements featured in the UNIC report—and the predictions for 2023—provide ample demonstration of the dynamism of the cinema sector, fueled by the insatiable public appetite for the cinemagoing experience.
Numerous audience behavior surveys across Europe reveal that audiences, especially those from younger age groups, are steadily returning to cinemas and confirm cinemagoing as the preferred and most affordable out-of-home entertainment choice. The slight increase of 4 percent in the average ticket price in Europe from 2021 was also driven by the growing popularity of Premium Large Formats, indicating that the audience is willing to pay more for a premium service or experience.
Welcoming the report, UNIC President Phil Clapp said:
“All of the data set out in the UNIC Annual Report for 2022 confirms what we already knew – that audiences love the Big Screen. It’s no surprise therefore that studios and major distributors have re-affirmed their trust in and commitment to exclusive theatrical releases, recognising cinemas as the prime venues for experiencing the magic of cinema. A rich and varied film slate remains pivotal in attracting both existing and new audiences. Some challenges remain—such as the need for a more constant flow of diverse films, increased cost of operations, to name a few—but cinemas remain the privileged place to experience films from all genres. Policymakers need to continue their efforts in safeguarding and celebrating cinemas, regardless of their size or location.”
Many of the trends examined in the Annual Report will also be discussed during the week at CineEurope, UNIC’s official convention and Europe’s premier gathering of cinema exhibition professionals from the region and beyond.