Europe falters in Q3, but year-end record still in sight

In most key Western European markets, the third quarter was the dead weight that brought an otherwise promising first half of the year back to earth, offsetting what had been healthy gains in the U.K./Ireland, France and Germany.

There were a number of reasons for the fall-off: In the U.K., B.O. was unable to keep pace with the absence of “Harry Potter”; France saw local films in particular lag in the quarter; and Germany suffered comparative softness at the top and throughout its release slate.

Yet Russia saw gains in the third quarter as Hollywood product dominated, while Latin American markets did strong Q3 business that left year-to-year results ahead of 2011, helped by an increase in ticket prices in Brazil, local successes in Chile and strength across the board in Argentina. Mexican biz was also improved, and animated success helped the B.O. in Spain.

In China, a week-long National Day Holiday fell in the third quarter, boosting B.O. receipts to $63 million, up from $50.33 million in the same period last year. The Huayi Brothers’ “Tai Chi Zero” was the top performer during the holiday, with $12.89 million, according to research group Entgroup. “Looper,” with $12.56 million in that week, came in second.

The fourth quarter, however, looks strong, and with “Taken 2″ already outperforming the original, and major titles like “Skyfall,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2″ and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on the horizon in the year’s final three months, exhibs are yet hoping to surpass 2011′s record worldwide gross of $32.6 billion.

AUSTRALIA
Box office: $287 mil
Top Film: $45 mil (“The Dark Knight Rises”)
Down 8% vs. 2011 Q3

Business for the quarter tumbled 8% year-to-year, but box office for the nine months to Sept. 30 remained up 1% vs. 2011, at A$855.9 million ($884.3 million).

Strong performances from top import “The Dark Knight Rises” ($44.5 million) and local hit “The Sapphires” ($14 million to Sept. 30, and No. 14 overall all-time at the local Australian box office) nevertheless were no match for a 2011 third quarter that featured “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ ($56.1 million) and local pic “Red Dog” ($18.8 million), which became Australia’s eighth biggest local release of all time ($22.7 million total).

Lower down the chart, 2011 saw a better spread of quarterly business, with the entire top 10 grossing more than $12 million, compared with only eight pics turning the trick this year.

FRANCE
Box office: 39 mil
Top Film: $50 mil (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”)
Down 14% vs 2011 Q3

Admissions in France were down 14% in the third quarter compared with 2011, despite good showings for “Ice Age: Continental Drift” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” The differences were felt farther down the chart. In Q3 2011, 26 titles sold more than half a million tickets, compared with just 17 in the same quarter in 2012. The result saw yearly admissions in the market drop from 9% ahead of 2011 as of June 30 to just 0.5% up (125.3 million) as of Sept. 30.

Three local titles cracked the top 10 for the quarter in 2012, compared with just two in 2011; however, collective admissions for the top three local titles for the quarter in 2012 were 3.6 million tickets, down from 3.95 million for the top three local pics in the quarter in 2011.

France likely will see a major early boost to its Q4 performance from local 3D franchise “Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia,” the fourth in the live-action series starring Gerard Depardieu, which opened Oct. 17. The second film in the franchise, 2002′s “Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” grossed €78 million ($81.8 million) in France — the most successful local film at the time in the territory. The most recent installment, 2008′s “Asterix and Obelix at the Olympic Games” grossed $60.3 million.

GERMANY
Box office: $290 mil
Admissions: $30 mil
Top Film: $63 mil (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”)
Down 11% vs. 2011 Q3

As in the U.K., a poor third quarter turned a box office that had been running ahead of last year (in this case by 3%) into one that’s lagging behind (2%). Returns for the quarter were down 11% year-to-year, to $289.6 million, and admissions off 12% to 29.8 million. Box office for the first nine months stood at $879 million, with admission down 3% during that time, to 89.8 million.

A $19 million difference between the quarter’s leaders, 2012′s “Ice Age: Continental Drift” ($62.8 million) and 2011′s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ ($80.8 million) accounted for roughly a sixth of the year-to-year third-quarter drop, but lower-ranked titles also played a big part.

In 2011, every film in the German top 30 for the quarter grossed more than $2 million (31 titles in all) compared with just 22 above that measure in Q3 2012. Moreover, 17 pics surpassed $5 million for the period in 2011, compared with just 11 in 2012.

Local title “Resident Evil: Retribution” ($6.4 million) was in release for only the last 11 days of the quarter. In contrast, 2011 saw local comedy “What a Man” ($15.1 million) and “The Three Musketeers” ($13.3 million) enjoy a month or more of play.

ITALY
Box office: $136 mil
Admissions: 15.9 mil
Top Film: $27 mil (“Madagascar 3″)
Up 4% vs. 2011 Q3

Italy saw quarterly results for the portion of the country covered by box office reporting sources rise 4% in both receipts ($135.7 million) and admissions (15.9 million). At the close of September, box office for the year was down 10% from 2011, an improvement from the 14% lag at the end of June.

The year’s No. 2 grosser, DreamWorks Animation’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted,” was the quarter’s big driver, after opening in August and taking in $27 million — still, behind top Q3 2011 earner “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ ($31.5 million).

LATIN AMERICA
Box office: $216 mil
Admissions: 39.3 mil
Top Film: $42.2m (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”)
Up 8% vs. 2011 Q3

Admissions in Brazil for the quarter held virtually level year-to-year (39.27 million in 2012 vs. 39.24 million in 2011), but a rise in ticket prices saw box office improve 8% to Real 436.8 million ($215.5 million). The top three titles (“Ice Age: Continental Drift,” “The Amazing Spider-Man” and “The Dark Knight Rises”) took in just shy $100 million, compared with a bit less than $90 million for the top three titles of Q3 2011. Bruno Mazzeo-starrer “E Ai, Comeu?” ($9.5 million) was the only local title to crack the top 10 this year. In 2011, Mazzeo-headliner “Cilada.com” collected $17.9 million for the quarter, while a second local film, “Federal Bank Heist” ($11.7) also finished in the top 10.

Elsewhere in Latin America, Argentina’s box office for the first nine months of 2012 is up 36% vs. last year, to $238.1 million, and admissions have gained 11% to 38.15 million. Chile saw third-quarter hit “Stefan vs. Kramer” become the highest grossing local film of all-time, taking in $11.3 million to Sept. 30, and helping the territory to a 17% rise in box office ($97 million) and 15% gain in admissions (16 million) against the first nine months of 2011.

MEXICO
Box office: $231 mil
Admissions: 67.1 mil
Top Film: $37.2m (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”)
Up 4% vs. 2011 Q3

Box office was up 4% year-to-year for the quarter, to 3.05 billion pesos ($230.5 million), while admissions gained 12%, with 67.1 million tickets sold between July and September. Mexico’s box office for the year to Sept. 30 gained 12% on 2011, with $628.3 million; admissions were up 9% to 176.3 million. Local titles didn’t play much of a part in either year’s quarter. The top two titles for both periods delivered similar results: 2012′s “Ice Age: Continental Drift” ($37.2 million) and “The Dark Knight Rises” ($31.6 million) vs. 2011′s “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2″ ($36.0 million) and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” ($30.3 million). The biggest improvement was in this year’s No. 3 title in the quarter, “The Amazing Spider-Man” ($28.7 million) compared with “Captain America: The First Avenger” ($21.1 million) in 2011.

RUSSIA

Box office: $293 mil
Top Film: $53 mil (“Ice Age: Continental Drift”)
Up 16% vs. 2011 Q3

Though local productions in Russia continue to be overwhelmed by Hollywood fare, the country’s box office in the third quarter, at about $293 million according to one studio’s estimates, increased more than 16% year-to-year locally.

The top pic of the quarter, “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” grossed $53 million, followed by “The Amazing Spider-Man” ($23.3 million). In fact, the market’s top 10 was entirely occupied by Hollywood product. Spanish-language film “I Want You” landed at No. 11 locally, with $6.1 million in the third quarter, while futuristic sci-fier “Branded,” from Russian co-helmer Aleksandr Dulerayn, deubted in Russia Sept. 6 and has grossed almost $4 million so far.

This time last year, “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” ($40.4 million) ruled the Russian B.O.; local title “Pregnant” (Beremennaya) was No. 12, with $7.4 million.

SPAIN
Box office: $152 mil
Admissions: 24 mil
Top Film: $17 mil (“Brave”)
Down 5% vs. 2011 Q3

Spain saw a stronger third quarter than most of its Western European neighbors, despite box office ($152.4 million) and admissions (23.5 million) that fell 5% against the same period of 2011.

The top three earners for the quarter were animated hits, with Pixar’s “Brave” leading the quarter, at $17.2 million, and local animated hit “Tad, the Lost Explorer” (the top-grossing local title of the year) second at $16.3 million. Four animated films were among the top six for the quarter, and grossed a collective $61.5 million. In comparison, the 2011 quarter saw only one animated title, “Cars 2,” make the top 15 (at No. 4, with $14.7 million), although live-action/animation hybrid “The Smurfs” placed third, with $18.3 million.

“I Want You” ($7 million of its $15.3 million total gross during Q3) was the top local live-action pic of the quarter. The top local title of the period for 2011, Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In,” ranked outside the top 10, with $5.9 million.

The quarter helped narrow Spain’s yearly box office dropoff from 12% as of June 30 to 10% ($539.7 million) by Sept. 30. Moreover, the fourth quarter has gotten off to a great start, with local English-language title “The Impossible,” starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, claiming $13.3 million over its four-day launch (Oct. 11-14).

U.K./IRELAND
Box office: $454 mil
Top Film: $88 mil (“The Dark Knight Rises”)
Down 17% vs. 2011 Q3

U.K./Ireland saw the worst third-quarter drop among Western Europe’s major markets, with box office off 17% year-to-year, due to the inability of local titles this year to match 2011 third-quarter success stories “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ ($118.2 million) and “The Inbetweeners Movie” ($71.3 million). Box office for the July to September period this year reached £288.3 million ($454 million) compared with $563.3 million for the same period in 2011. The top two titles for Q3 2012, “The Dark Knight Rises” ($88 million), and U’s “Ted” ($47.4 million) paled in comparison to “Potter” and “Inbetweeners.” Moreover, in 2011, a brace of local titles played solidly, including “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” ($13.1 million), “One Day” ($12.7 million) and “Horrid Henry” ($10.5 million), while local titles were scarce in 2012, with “Anna Karenina” ($7.6 million) and “Dredd” ($6.7 million) playing best.

The quarter took a market that had been up 4% on 2011 at the year’s midpoint, and left it trailing the prior year by 4% as of Sept. 30.

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Third-quarter domestic B.O. falls

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