Theater construction to drive B.O. rise

LONDON — Central European countries are on the verge of an investment boom in movie theater construction that should see an annual rise of 20 million filmgoers within five years and box office receipts up by 6% or more on this year, according to a Dodona Research report.

The report, Cinemagoing Central Europe, says the annual number of movie theater visits in the region — a swathe of countries that includes Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia — is set to rise from 72 million last year to 92 million by 2013.

The region has 3,157 screens, roughly the same amount as Canada or Japan. But box office take is much smaller than in Canada or Japan because ticket prices are so much lower.

Ambitious expansion plans by exhibitors could double capacity in Bulgaria by 2013 and in Romania the number of screens is expected to grow from 122 to 350 over the same period.

“In the 20 years that our firm has been monitoring the cinema market, right from the start of the multiplex boom, there has never before been expansion in any country of this scale and rapidity,” report author Alisdair Ritchie said.

The increase in screens in Romania should see an almost three-fold rise in admissions by 2013 from 3.4 million in 2008 to 9.5 million, the report says, with per-capita cinema attendance across Central Europe on par by that time with figures for some of the richer Western European territories today.

“The 1.5 cinema visits per head of population expected in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia by 2013 compare with similar levels today in Germany, the Netherlands and Portugal — and a figure of around that in Greece,” the report states.

Digital cinema is also set to grow in Central Europe, driven by the potential of 3-D movies.

Palace Cinemas, a loop in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and Poland’s Multikino have recently announced plans to convert their chains to digital projection, which could provide a catalyst for others to follow, the report says.

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