Annex 2: Country Studies


Key Points  

 Screens and Admissions
No. of screens
No. of screens
- 3%
- 9%
* unweighted average 
Number of screens
Number of seats ('000)
Number of admissions per seat
Total number of admissions ('000)
Number of admissions per head of population
* unweighted average
Concentration in Exhibition
Market share of Top 3 players
Market share of independents responsible for own programming
One can distinguish, in Ireland, three main groups of exhibitors: the Ward Anderson group, US majors and independent exhibitors.
With 29 cinemas, the Ward Anderson group owns, throughout the country, 80 screens, which is 42% of all screens. They are a family-owned group originally involved in the distribution sector, which essentially developed by acquiring theatres encountering financial difficulties, first in the provinces, then, after Rank pulled out in 1982, in Dublin.
The US majors (UCI and MGM) are only present in Dublin and its surrounding area. UCI, controlled by Universal and Paramount, in fact possesses two multiplexes, one with ten screens and the other with twelve, in the suburbs of Dublin, and has a 11.6% share of sites. MGM (previously Cannon), controls the Adelphi-Carlton group, which has two complexes with four screens in Dublin. The number of screens owned by this company will double in 1994 after the opening of an 8 screen complex in Parnell Street, in the centre of the capital.
Finally, there are 48 cinemas, which is six-tenths of all cinemas managed by independent exhibitors. These are mostly members of the Independent Cinemas Association of Ireland, and only possess between them 79 screens (42% of the sector). The majority of their cinemas are single-screen establishments, located in the small towns.
The market therefore is a highly concentrated one: in terms of admissions, the three main circuits hold a market share of more than 80%, which makes Ireland the European country where cinema exhibition, according to this criteria, is at its most concentrated. We must emphasize that there is, however, a new phenomenon of "de-concentration" occurring which is rare in Europe: until as recently as three years ago, Ward Anderson could be considered the incontestable leader of the sector, and was in a position to impose its views on distributors. But, since the opening of the UCI multiplexes in Dublin, its market share has fallen. In response to that, the Irish network created a new complex with 10 screens, located only quarter of an hour's drive from one of the UCI multiplexes. But, even after that, its impact on the market is only a little more than a quarter of admissions. In a significant way, its complex, the Savoy at Santry, which was considered, a few years ago, to be beyond the realms of possibility for a national outlet, nevertheless achieves less admissions than UCI's Tallaght.
Access by Films to Screens
 Companies involved in both distribution and exhibition - 1992 
Distribution market share
(% admissions)
Exhibition market share
(% admissions)
Ward Anderson
12% (Abbey Films)
One encounters, in the Irish market, different cases of vertical integration. This does not seem to affect significantly the access to films of other exhibitors.
As well as its theatres, Ward Anderson has a distribution company (Abbey Films) which specialises in American productions. Its market share in distribution is however limited. Where Abbey Films gives priority treatment to the theatres within its group, it does not seem to give them any degree of exclusivity.
The other case: MGM films are distributed in Ireland by UIP, and reciprocally the MGM exhibition group is "aligned" with the same distributor. Nevertheless, it is important to maintain the practical separation between the two activities of distribution and exhibition. UIP also supplies to UCI in Dublin, yet UCI is one of the two principal competitors to MGM.
Beyond the phenomena of vertical integration, the problems of access to films obviously depend on the competitive position observed in each local market. The position in this regard is very different according to whether a cinema is located in Dublin, in a provincial town, or in a rural area.
In Dublin, competition is lively between the three main circuits. In this market, like in the United Kingdom, an "alignment" formula is prevalent, in other words there are informal exclusivity agreements between the US majors, suppliers of programmes and the circuits. This is how Ward Anderson benefits from an agreement, inherited from Rank Odeon, with Fox, Columbia and Buena Vista, just as MGM is linked with UIP.
Because of their numbers of screens, the multiplexes however have an "all-product" supply policy. These establishments are located in the suburbs, and are not, up to the present, affected by the "alignments" of theatres in the city centre. It is, however, doubtful whether the current system will continue to operate without modifications after the opening of the MGM multiplex, which will be located in the heart of Dublin.
Given the size of the provincial towns, there is only room in each of them for one, or two establishments at most. In the cities (Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford, Wexford etc.), cinemas are normally in the hands of the Ward Anderson group, just as they are in the hands of independents in the little towns and rural areas. But whatever the situation, the practices of alignments and exclusivity have no reason to apply here, as, in each local market, there is a monopoly situation.
Ticket Prices and Exhibitors' Shares
EU average*
Average ticket price incl. taxes (ECUs)
Average rental as a % of box office net of tax
Exhibitor's average share (%)
Exhibitor's share of ticket price (ECU)
Exhibitor's average share per screen (000 ECUs)
* weighted average
The average ticket price lies between £2.75 and £3.00. It is therefore lower than the European average: this undoubtedly explains why, in a country which has one of the lowest standards of living in Europe, the number of visits per year is particularly high (2.22 admissions per inhabitant per year, compared with a European average of 1.61).
Except for establishments located in very small local markets (see below), film rentals are remunerated proportionally, without the payment of a guaranteed minimum. It is important to mention that the cinemas located in rural areas are the exception to this rule (Smaller Exhibition Theatres or SETs); distributors are not paid for these proportionally to takings, but take a form of weekly fixed price, which is about I£60 a cinema.
For the cinemas located in urban areas, the rentals vary according to a sliding scale. In the big provincial towns, this sliding scale is different from distributor to distributor. Typically, it will be decided on the basis of criteria like numbers of visits and the size of the theatre. If, for example, the number of admissions registered in a week is less than 2.5 times the number of seats in the theatre, the rental will be 25%, from 2.5 to 5 times 35%, and from there upwards, 50%.
In Dublin, the system for calculating it is different, because the weekly cost of operating the screen ("the nut") is taken into account, the amount of this being subject to agreement between the distributor and the cinema management. Until the takings reach this ceiling, the rental is only 25%, but above that, practically all the returns go to the distributor, as the rental is 90%.
The average rental is estimated by the Irish Film Institute at 33.3% of takings after VAT: if this estimate is correct, then Ireland experiences one of the lowest rental rates in Europe. It must be emphasized, however, that the fixed sums paid by the SETs are taken into account; these contribute to the lowering of the average national rate.
Despite the low ticket prices, this level of rental guarantees to exhibitors a good level of return, higher in any case than the European average.
Cinemas Provision
Number of screens per 100,000 population
Number of seats per screen
% large screens
% Dolby
% multiplexes (7+ screens)
* weighted average
With 5.3 cinemas per 100,000 population, the Irish exhibition industry is one of the densest in Europe. This situation is due to two phenomena - on the one hand the considerable increase in number of screens (plus 40% between 1985 and 1992) which has accompanied, in recent years, the opening of multiplexes; on the other hand, the maintenance of activity in cinemas with uncertain profitability but supported by advantageous commercial conditions in local markets where, elsewhere in Europe, all cinemas would have undoubtedly disappeared.
The particularly dense nature of the sector has to be seen in relation to the record number of visits, of which it is both cause and effect. The opening of multiplexes in Dublin and its surrounding areas has had a disruptive effect on market statistics. Globally, it coincided with a time when numbers of visits, after decades of falling, had begun to rise again. As in the United Kingdom, it is difficult not to see the creation of these establishments as one of the major factors in this reversal of trends. Thus in Dublin, numbers of admissions rose from 2.5 million in 1989 to 4.2 million in 1992. At the same time, the provinces, which did not experience the same impetus for modernisation, lost 900,000 admissions. As the catchment area of establishments grew, it is not impossible that some of the audience transferred to the multiplexes, as the UCI complex, Tallaght, is located in the suburbs far from Dublin. But, given the state of communications in Ireland, particularly the poor state of the motorway network, these phenomena of transfer are necessarily limited. There has therefore been a spectacular change in consumer habits in places where choice has improved, and a continuation of the fall in areas where the changes in the industry are less appreciable.
These changes are even more obvious when looked at in a qualitative framework; since the opening of the multiplexes the state of the Irish exhibition industry appears to be one of stark contrasts. The multiplexes have, in fact, in Ireland as elsewhere, rapidly imposed new standards of quality. But this movement, very obvious in the capital, has only partially affected the provinces.
Even if some new cinema complexes have been opened, the number of these, and above all the importance of efforts to modernise old cinemas is limited; exhibitors generally think that the renovation of an old theatre will not generate sufficient numbers of extra admissions to pay off the investment. The Ward Anderson Group preferred to close its cinemas at Waterford and Wexford, and open new ones, rather than refurbish. But what is possible in the big provincial towns is obviously not possible in the small towns, where cinemas are still a long way from generating sufficient cash-flow to allow them to opt for such a strategy.
US films' market share
European films' market share 

  - of which national films

Art-house & experimental: screens as % of all screens
Art-house & experimental: share of admissions
* weighted average
Given its size (less than 4 million inhabitants), the Irish market obviously shows some specific characteristics. With the exception of Dublin, all the local markets are too restricted - Limerick, the third largest city in Ireland, has, for example, a mere 75,000 inhabitants - for there to be any hope of developing programming which is not restricted to the main successful films. Under these conditions, the job of the programmer essentially consists of obtaining prints of feature films as quickly as possible.
And, above all, this explains why the number of films distributed is particularly low: in 1992, it did not rise above 150. Despite all this, programming practices in Ireland have experienced the same changes as elsewhere in Europe: one notes, for example, a strong trend to concentrate returns on an increasingly restricted number of titles. In the course of the first 16 weeks of 1993, 3 films realised between them 60% of admissions.
Inevitably, this contributes to increasing the power of the successful distributors, when it comes to films with the highest potential, to negotiate "special terms" with the exhibitors in order to increase the level of return on the costs of the release.
These films in practice require a significant number of prints (up to 50 or indeed 70), a necessary condition for the practice of "intensive programming" techniques.
These movements have above all profited from American products, which now realise nearly 90% of admissions in Ireland.
With only a few exceptions, European films are considered too exacting, and they are not shown except in the cinemas which specialise in art and experimental film. There are three cinemas of this type, all situated in Dublin, of which one is part of the Ward Anderson group.
Together, they represent at most 4% of admissions, which is clearly a lower score than the European average, but which nevertheless shows the sector's good performance rates, because it represents only 2% of the number of sites.
Role of the Public Authorities

                              - VAT 
                              - Other taxes 
                              - Rights (musical) 

- Total/ticket (in ECU)
Financial assistance: 

                              - Total (in ECU Millions)

                    - Per ticket (in ECU)
* unweighted average
VAT on admissions is 12.5%, which is half the normal rate. There are no other taxes, neither local nor national, on box office receipts.
The intervention of the public authorities in film is essentially limited to the production sphere. There are no specific regulations regarding the cinema: no programming quota, dispositions relating to film rentals, nor particular rules on the question of exclusivity.
Besides, Ward Anderson's (Abbey Films) low market share in distribution protects that group from any eventual measure designed to limit vertical integration. The high concentration of the sector is generally seen as an inevitable situation, within the framework of such a restricted sector.
Release windows are also not the object of any particular regulations, but they have evolved from the practices of the sector. Video release tends to happen six months after cinema release; television three years after obtaining the censor's certificate. Anyway, the organisation of the video market is highly dependent on the British market.
Finally, with the exception of support granted to the Irish Film Centre Cinemas, there is no public subsidy for exhibitors.