Hollywood blockbusters and 3D pics drive uptick

The boffo performance of Hollywood blockbusters in general and 3D productions in particular sparked record box office grosses in the European Union last year.

At the same time, the market share of European film dropped 1.5 percentage points to 26.7% — it’s lowest level since 2005.

EU box office grosses hit a record E6.3 billion ($8.02 billion) in 2009, a 12% boost from the previous year, according to a report by the European Audiovisual Observatory published Thursday.

Market growth was primarily driven by Hollywood blockbusters, illustrated by the fact that the market share for U.S. films climbed from 65.6% to an estimated 67.1%, the highest level since 2003.

A 6% surge in cinema attendance combined with 3D premium prices fueled box office growth. Admissions climbed to an estimated 981 million, up from 925 million in 2008.

The release of a significant number of big-budget 3D blockbusters such as “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” “Up” and “Avatar” convinced many exhibitors to install digital 3D projection systems in their cinemas, increasing screen space for the pics and generating higher revenue from premium 3D admission prices, according to the report.

“Ice Age,” “Up” and “Avatar” all landed in the top five films of the year, selling a combined 86 million tickets throughout the EU.

The largest box office increases were seen in Eastern Europe: the Romanian box office skyrocketed by 67.3%, Slovakia by 43.8% and Bulgaria by 31.5%. Among western countries, Germany and Austria enjoyed the biggest boosts with 22.8% and 25.2%, respectively.

While the overall market share of European films fell in 2009, local pics in France, Germany and Sweden achieved exceptional shares.

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