Sports may steal box office gold

European exhibs brace for dual distractions in 2012

Next year the Olympic Games, which runs July 27-Aug. 12, is being staged in the U.K. and so will sit within a European time zone. As if that wasn’t a big enough distraction for the continent’s cinemagoers, the European soccer championship is also taking place next summer, playing June 8-July 1.

“Last year, the period around the (soccer) World Cup was pretty much dead space for cinemas, so this promises to be the same, and then some,” says Phil Clapp, CEO of the U.K.’s Cinema Exhibitors Assn.

An international distribution chief at one of the Hollywood studios contacted by Variety confirms that the European movie biz — which reps 60% of international B.O. — is going to be hit hard by the summer sports bonanza, and makes the following observations:

  1. Europe’s top box office territories are also the leading soccer nations — France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Spain — and so are likely to progress to the latter stages of the tournament, maximizing the impact of the event in those countries.

  2. Europeans tend to be less gifted when it comes to Olympic disciplines, and so, of the two events, it is the soccer championship that is scaring off the tentpole pics.

  3. Although soccer is generally more popular among men in Europe, international tournaments appeal to women as well, due to the patriotic fervor that is whipped up.

  4. It is not just that people will go to theaters less often, it also will be more difficult to generate publicity for movies. The only upside will be that viewing figures for ad spots during the sports events will be stellar.

  5. The widespread use of mobile devices means that both events will be more of a distraction than ever before.

  6. Exhibs may be called on to show a forgiving attitude toward films that open against one of the top soccer matches or popular Olympic events.

But people will still watch movies.

“There’s only so much television any one person can watch, and they’ll need a break,” the studio topper says.

And with the school vacation running in late July and throughout August, there will also be opportunities to counterprogram with family fare.

Imax rollout hits a bump | CineEurope tackles hot topics | Sports may steal box office gold | CineEurope honorees

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