European Union box office rises 4%

Boom markets include Poland and Baltic states

LONDON — Cinema attendance in the European Union rose 4% in 2006, according to statistics released by the European Audiovisual Observatory on Wednesday.

The Strasbourg-based audiovisual statistics bureau said it had estimated the 4% rise across the EU’s then 25 member states on the basis of data provided by 20 countries.

“Seventeen out of the 20 countries for which data is available registered a positive change,” the EAO noted.

Some of the biggest gains were seen in the Baltic states of Lithuania, where admissions doubled, and Estonia and Latvia, where attendance rose 40.2% and 22.7% respectively.

Other successful markets included Poland, where attendance rose by 35% to 32 million admissions, and Slovakia where the number of cinemagoers doubled.

Established markets such as France, Germany and the Netherlands showed a clear recovery after poor perfs in 2005, registering increases of 7.5%, 7.4% and 9.0% respectively.

But attendance in Spain and Britain dropped by 4.7% and 4.9% respectively. Italy also put in a lackluster perf, with admissions rising by just 1.7%.

Blighty remained the EU’s second biggest market, however, registering 156.6 million admissions. France topped the attendance chart with 188.5 million cinema visits.

The EAO noted that 2006 had been a good year for domestic fare in a number of EU states.

In particular, French pics sold 84 million tickets at home, to claim 45% of their domestic market, only slightly less than U.S. pics, which accounted for 45.8% of admissions. It was the best home perf for Gallic pics since 1984.

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