BERLIN — “Green Lantern” may be the latest actioner that underperformed at the domestic 3D box office, but studios invested in pricey tentpoles can take heart: European exhibs continue to see rising revenue due in large part to 3D pics.
But good news for exhibs doesn’t necessarily gladden the hearts of European producers. The pics that are boosting continental B.O. revenue are part of an onslaught of U.S. 3D blockbusters, which, over the past two years, have caused the box office share of European pics to shrink to its lowest level in the past five years.
B.O. revenue in the European Union reached a record high of €6.45 billion ($9.3 billion) in 2010, a year-on-year increase of 5%, according to a recent report published by the European Audiovisual Observatory.
In contrast with 2009, box office growth last year was exclusively driven by an increase in average ticket prices as the number of admissions actually decreased by 1.6% to 967 million tickets sold.
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While the novelty factor of 3D significantly contributed in driving growth in cinema attendance in 2009, 3D pics failed to further increase ticket sales in 2010. However, titles like “Avatar” and “Toy Story 3” kept cinema attendance at the second-highest level since 2004 and also resulted in a hike of some 6.8% in average ticket prices.
A surge in 3D screens helped an increasing number of stereoscopic blockbusters remain at the top of the charts and dramatically boosted the market shares for 3D titles in major European markets like the U.K. (where 3D pics took 24% of the total B.O.) and Russia (20% of the total B.O.), France (16% of admissions) and Germany (17% of admissions).
Looking at individual markets, 2010 proved a year of mixed results with trends varying significantly across the continent. B.O. revenue increased in 18 European Union markets but fell in eight others. At the same time, admissions were up in 13 markets but down in 14.
The biggest jumps in revenue were seen in Eastern Europe: in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the box office soared 60.6% from 2009 to 2010; in Russia, it shot up 43.7%; in Romania, 29.2%; Bulgaria 28%; and the Czech Republic, 25%.
These increases reflected a boost in digital screens. In Russia, that number increased from 351 in 2009 to 941 in 2010. The Czech Republic added 83 new screens for a total of 133; Poland saw its digital screen count rise from 177 to 324.
In Western Europe, Italy fared particularly well, with B.O. revenue up 18%. In the U.K., it climbed 8.7%. By contrast, the German box office dropped 5.7% and Spain was down 1.3%.
The 3D sci-fi extravaganza “Avatar” topped last year’s EU charts, selling an estimated 43 million tickets after having generated more than 22 million admissions in 2009. Repping a strong second, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” boasted 31.2 million admissions, followed by “Toy Story 3” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
But amid all this activity, one overarching trend was the shrinking marketshare of European productions. In fact, American 3D blockbusters accounted for 10 of the top 20 films in 2010.
With the exception of “Harry Potter” and “Robin Hood,” both of which had U.S. studio backing, no European films made it into the top 20.
The most successful European pics included French comedy hit “Les petits mouchoirs” (Little White Lies), which attracted more than 5.4 million moviegoers across the EU, and English-lingo German-produced 3D horror actioner “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” which sold 5.3 million tickets.
After steadily rising to 28.3% in 2008, the share for Euro pics in the EU decreased to 26.8% in 2009 and 25.3% in 2010.
The share for U.S. films, on the other hand, climbed from 66.9% in 2009 to 68% last year.
European films with U.S. backing also increased their share from 4% to 5.4%, thanks to the success of the Potter pic and “Robin Hood.”
Led by “Mouchoirs,” French titles again garnered the largest number of admissions of all European films in the EU, with a 9.4% share, followed by Italian productions with a 4.1% share and German pics with 3.1% — thanks in large part to “Afterlife.”
Film production in the EU continues to grow, and last year reached a record 1,203 feature films and documentaries — 19 more than in 2009.
That number includes a dramatic increase in documentary productions, which were up by 32, while feature films were down by 13 compared with the previous year. Features accounted for 72% of new productions in 2010, compared with 28% for documentaries.
Boasting 203 feature films, France reached a record high, and was again the country with the greatest production output, followed by Spain with 186 films produced.