Audiences increase slightly in Europe's cinemas:
+1.3% as digitization comes to 91% of screens
MEDIA Salles data at the Berlinale
The statistics elaborated by MEDIA Salles reveal that in the 33 countries whose data is already available, from Iceland to Russia, from Portugal to Turkey, spectators in 2014 came to 1,167.2 million, with a 1.3% increase compared to the 1,151.9 million in 2013.
This increase does not mean that the situation is the same everywhere since, whilst the 18 countries in Western Europe - with a total of 829.8 million admissions compared to 831.2 in 2013 - record a substantially stable situation (-0.2%), the 15 in Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim close the year with a 5.2% increase in admissions and a total of 337.4 million tickets sold, compared to 320.7 million in 2013. This is the ninth consecutive increase, which has caused these countries to almost double their audiences.
The lack of homogeneity in these results also emerges within the two macro-regions.
In Western Europe, as in 2013, there is a prevalence of countries with a negative trend. Nevertheless, on average the drops prove to be more limited than in the previous year.
Large markets like the United Kingdom close the year with a negative result (-4.9%), Germany, where a dip of 5.9% has been estimated, and Italy, which, with an estimated decrease of around 6.7%, comes to a halt just under the 100-million threshold.
Drops in audiences have also been recorded in Luxemburg (-6.5%), Norway (-6.1%), Austria (-5.8%), Switzerland (-5.7%), Denmark (-4.8%).
Slighter decreases can be seen on markets such as Portugal (-3.8%), Finland (-3.4%), Iceland (-2.3%) Ireland (-2.0%) and Sweden (-1.9%).
The Netherlands manages to limit its losses and remain basically stable (-0.2%).
The tickets lost in these fourteen countries are almost entirely compensated for by the brilliant results in France (+7.7%) and Spain (+13.6%). The former country, with over 208 million spectators, confirms its position as the leading market in Europe, whilst the latter, thanks mostly to the success of domestic films, gains around ten million admissions and puts an end to the series of drops that started in 2005.
A positive result is to be seen for Belgium, too, where estimates indicate a slight increase (+1.1%). Liechtenstein almost conserves a balance with the previous year's results.
Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim
If, in Western Europe, there is a prevalence of countries with a negative trend, in Central and Eastern Europe and on the Mediterranean Rim the opposite is true.
There is a prevalence of positive results and for some countries 2014 was a record year.
This is the case on markets such as Lithuania (+37.5%) or Serbia (+24.8%) but also on a large market like Turkey (+21.8%) and, to a lesser extent, Romania (+12.1%), Poland (+11.2%), Slovakia (+10.4%), Hungary (+8.4%) and the Czech Republic (+4.5%). Also growing, though only slightly, is Estonia (+1.6%). Instead, a slightly negative trend is recorded on the most important market in the area, i.e. Russia (-1.1%), whilst more evident drops affect Latvia (-3.1%), Cyprus (-4.6%), Bulgaria (-5.1%) and Croatia (about -7%). It is not a happy year for Slovenia, which experiences a drop of over 20%.
Digital rollout nears completion
During 2014 digital screens continued to increase: whilst there were 31,097 at the beginning of the year, or 84% of total screens, twelve months later they were touching on 34,000 units (33,881) with a penetration rate of 91%.
Amongst the main factors to affect this phenomenon is the acceleration in conversion in some countries where digitization had remained below the average for the Continent. This is the case on a large market such as Italy, where at the start of 2014 digital screens accounted for 76%; here around 600 new digital projectors were added over the last 12 months. In the same way, Spain, which started 2014 with 70% digital screens, installed around 300 units, whilst, on the other hand, witnessing a reduction in the total number of venues and screens.
The increases recorded in Turkey are also considerable, with around 200 new digital projectors and a penetration rate rising from 51% to a little under 60%, and on smaller markets, such as Estonia, where the number of digital screens rose from 29 to 38, and Serbia, where they increased from 27 to 43.
All in all, the efforts of European cinemas to achieve technological updating seem to be making progress, though in a context where, as emerges from the first data available on admissions 2014, many countries record decreases in admissions, a situation that is a cause of concern to exhibitors, particularly in view of the investments that will be needed to keep up with technological innovation or to replace projectors nearing obsolescence.
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