26 May, 2008



A tendency to decline but not everywhere: this sums up the 2007 trend as regards cinema audiences. The exact opposite of 2006, where the plus sign was the general rule, although, there again, with some exceptions.

Less spectators in Europe
From the figures available to date, which in some cases are still provisional, it can be seen that ticket sales have declined on average by 1.3% in the 27 countries of the European Union, dropping from 929.9 to 918.3 million. In the 19 countries of Western Europe the drop is equal to -2.1% (from 885.1 to 867.0 million), whilst in the 15 territories of Central and Eastern part of the continent and on the Mediterranean Rim the decrease amounts to -1.3% (from 113.8 to 112.3 million).

The situation in Western Europe: contrasting results from the five leading markets
Analysing the figures country by country and starting with the five leading markets, the results that emerge differ widely, as in 2006. France, Spain and Germany close 2007 with considerable decreases, whilst the United Kingdom grows and Italy takes wing. The leading European market continues to be France which, whilst losing over 11 million spectators (from 188.7 to 177.5 million), obtains a better result than in 2005. Germany leaves behind 11 million tickets, dropping to 125.4 million and returning to its 1995 position. Over 6 million fewer spectators for Spain, too, which experiences its third consecutive drop and closes with 116.9 million spectators: for a similar result we have to look back to 1998. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, sees a happy ending to 2007 (+3.7%), recovering most of the spectators lost in 2006 and, with 162.4 million spectators (of which over 38 were counted in July and August alone), confirms itself as the second largest market in Europe. Italy grows to the extent of almost 12%, according to the MEDIA Salles elaboration on the Cinetel figures, which cover around 90% of the market, recording over 114 million spectators. This flattering result, which is the best since 1986, is due mostly to the success of films “made in Italy”, accounting for as much as 34% of the market. Remaining in Western Europe a positive trend can also be seen in a smaller country like Ireland, which grows by 2.9%, crossing the 18-million spectator threshold for the first time, and in Greece (+7.7%).

Portugal (-0.3%), The Netherlands (-1.4%), Sweden (-2.5%) and Finland (-2.8%) are characterised by basically stable results or with slight dips, whilst the other countries experience sometimes substantial decreases, ranging from Denmark’s –4.0% and Belgium’s -6.2% to Switzerland’s -15.8% and including Austria’s -9.5% and Norway’s -10.0%.

The situation in Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim: Turkey influences the drop
In Central-Eastern Europe and on the Mediterranean Rim one of the two leading markets, Poland, has a positive result (33.8 million spectators compared to the 32.4 of 2006). The same applies to smaller markets such as Romania (+1.8%), Estonia (+2.6%), Bulgaria (+4.6%) and, even more, to Latvia (+13%), and to the Czech Republic, where the very important increase (+11.4%) is also due to the positive result by domestic films. An exceptional increase rate (+33.8%) is recorded in Lithuania. The increase in spectators seen in most countries, however, fails to compensate for the drop recorded in Slovakia (-18.3%) and on the second largest market - Turkey - which decreases from almost 35 million tickets to 31 (-10.9%).

An initial observation emerging from this situation, which would not cause great concern if the average dip of a couple of percentage points alone were considered, is the repetition of negative trends on markets that had raised high hopes for constant and lasting growth during the ‘Nineties.

The slow growth of multiplexes continues
In terms of infrastructures, the number of screens in Western Europe remains stable, whilst signs of growth are recorded in Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim.

The typology of movie theatres continues to change, with an increase in screens located in complexes housing over 8 screens. At 31 October 2007 there were 11,910 screens in multiplexes all over Europe, compared to the 11,393 twelve months before. This represents a 4.3% increase, a little lower than that recorded between 2005 and 2006, but decidedly lower than that recorded between 2004 and 2005 (+7.5%). The geographical distribution of complexes opened during 2007 shows that most vitality is to be seen in areas where the multiplex phenomenon is most recent: these are mainly Poland (7 new sites), Italy and Turkey (4 new complexes each), but also smaller markets such as Croatia and Greece. Amongst the countries in the avantgarde of the phenomenon, France and Ireland are the most dynamic (respectively 6 and 3 new sites), followed by Spain (2 complexes). A new complex has been opened in Belgium and another on the large UK market. Closures, however, cannot be overlooked – two of which occurred in Italy and four in Spain, confirming the fact that competition is wide-ranging and regards the whole market.

Digital screens worldwide: double in 2007, touching on the 6,000 mark
During 2007 the number of digital screens worldwide practically doubled, rising from 2,864 to 5,830. The lion’s share went to North America – in particular the United States – where, at the end of 2006, 1,957 were installed, with the number rising to 4,576 in twelve months. This is 78.5% of the world’s total projectors fitted with DLP Cinema or 4K technology and over 10% of US screens. In the same period Europe advanced from 529 to 830 installations, with a 57% increase. The number of digital projectors in Asia remained basically stable, rising by only 7.8% to 374 units during the year.

Elisabetta Brunella
Secretary General of MEDIA Salles
MEDIA Salles - European Cinema Journal no. 1/2008

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