Big boost for European cinema

Admissions up 25% from previous year

LONDON — 2006 was a bumper year for European cinema, according to a report published by the The Council of Europe’s European Audiovisual Observatory.

Some 926 million cinema tickets were sold across the EU last year, a 3.6% jump on 2005, with European pics accounting for a 28% share of admissions, up from 25% the previous year. European film production also was up by 47 features on 2005 to a total of 862 films.

“After the doom and gloom of 2005, what’s significant is that 2006 provided a rebound,” said Susan Newman-Baudais, analyst at the European Audiovisual Observatory.

“It’s not a complete rebound but at least it put things back on a positive trend and put paid to the theory that we were witnessing the decline in traditional theatergoing.”

Data was collected from across 25 EU member states.

While the overall picture was positive, individual territories revealed a sketchier outlook. Germany, Italy and Spain registered the greatest gains. Germany, in particular, scored its highest ever level of production with 174 features produced in 2006. Spanish production also registered its healthiest figures in 25 years with 150 films made, with an increase in public funding and coin from broadcasters boosting the local film biz.

Both Austria and Hungary saw their industries make 10 more films in 2006 than in the previous year. While film production in Blighty remained stable, there was a significant rise in the overall value of production activity in 2006 to £842.2 million ($1.6 billion), compared with the total figure of $1.1 billion in 2005.

Two countries that bucked the positive trend were Denmark, with film production down by 12 films, and France, which witnessed the biggest drop of 23 fewer features made. The figures can be partly explained by the fact that both countries experienced exceptionally high production numbers in 2005. Gaul witnessed a significant drop in the number of very low budget (less than $1.3 million) and mid-range ($ 3-9 million) films made.

Issue of polarizing budgets in Gaul has been a matter of debate for local helmers. In March, French helmer Pascale Ferran bemoaned the lack of coin for mid-range budgets when she accepted the best film prize for “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” at the Cesars.

“It’s extremely difficult to take a pan-European view and nearly impossible to say at one point too many films are being made,” said Newman-Baudais. “France had a significant drop but that was only because the previous year had been exceptional What we saw was actually a normalization.”

Outside of the EU, the most dynamic performance was notched up by Turkey, where 2006 admissions saw 34.8 million tickets sold, its highest levels since the early 1980s. Rise has been boosted by string of successful local films, such as the controversial “Valley of the Wolves: Iraq,” the Turkish box office champ for 2006 with 4.5 million admissions.

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