The following briefings on the status of film exhibition in various countries are extracted from VARIETY’S series of Global Reports.
The three major studios – Toho, Toei and Shochiku – maintain tight control over the nation’s theaters that play foreign pictures. There were 1,836 theaters in Japan last year, the fewest in at least five years.
As the multiplex building boom of recent years tapers off, exhibs are talking of cities being screen-saturated and of high building costs. Multiplexes account for some 30% to 35% of U.K. grosses. Admissions just failed to pass the expected magic 100 million figure last year, but exhibs remain optimistic about 1991.
Millions of dollars have been spent to improve cinemas in France over the past couple of years. The three big circuits – UGC, Pathe and Gaumont, which together control almost 1,000 of the nation’s 4,600 screens – and their smaller competitors intend to continue upgrading their facilities.
Attendance was down last year at Canada’s two leading cinema chains – Famous Players (owned by Paramount Communications), which has 506 screens in Canada, and troubled Cineplex Odeon (49% owned by MCA, itself taken over by Matsushita), which has 563 screens.
There is considerable speculation about the fate of Cineplex Odeon, which is hobbled by negative cashflow and a heavy debt burden. In October, MCA and the Bronfman group were forced to pump an additional $40 million into the chain, and with weak assets and a slumping economy, Cineplex’ outlook appears bleak.
High ticket prices, 15.2 million annual admissions and a strong convertible currency make Switzerland a lucrative market. In 1989, the latest year for which figures are available, it was the 12th-largest importer of U.S. films, accounting for $22 million in theatrical rentals. American pics captured 71% of the market.
The number of cinemas has declined nearly 40% since 1964 but appears to be stabilizing at around 400. The high cost of real estate is putting a lid on expansion.