Yearbook: a statistical analysis
Data from the 1996 edition
The data collected in the Yearbook is given a "voice" by Paola Bensi, statistician at the Institute of Business Administration of the Catholic University of Milan. The Italian scholar wanted to follow several paths of analysis, starting from considerations which primarily regard moviegoing, theatre structure, average ticket price and trends in gross revenues. On one hand, the objective is to clarify the significance of certain correlations often perceived only at the intuitive level, while on the other it is to describe the combined trend of these variables over time for the principal European countries, showing the differences in the various markets.
The first two diagrams give a graphic representation of the principal
statistical values recorded by the Yearbook, with reference to 1995.
Given the considerable disparity at European level with regard to comparative dimensions, two diagrams have been constructed in order to obtain adequate scales of measurement to view the positioning of all European countries: Fig. 1 features the 10 countries with a population of less than 10 million, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Iceland , Luxemburg, Norway, Portugal , Sweden and Switzerland; Fig. 2 shows the larger nations, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom.
Within each diagram, the first graph gives the figures for total admissions and population, plus annual per capita frequency of cinema going, as calculated from the first two variables; the second graph plots the figures for gross box office revenues in ECU against those for admissions, which gives the average ticket prices in ECU; the third graph shows the relation between gross box office revenues in ECU and the number of screens in each country, highlighting the level of gross box office revenues per screen as an index of relative profitability; lastly, the fourth graph charts for each country the population level and the number of screens, allowing calculation of the number of inhabitants per screens.
This graphic representation lends itself to panoramic interpretation, in the sense that an immediate impression can be gained of the overall positioning of each individual European country vis à vis the others, in respect of all the principal statistical values recorded.
In this way, taking Fig. 1 to begin with, we may observe how Denmark, although very similar to Finland so far as population and number of screens are concerned, nevertheless did much better in terms of gross box office revenues in ECU, due to a higher level of frequency of cinema going. Finland itself, on the other hand, stands out both for the notably low level of frequency of cinema going (1.0) and also for distinctly high pricing compared to the European average (6.54 ECU as against an average ticket price of 4.56 ECU at European level).
Turning to Fig. 2, we may note the marked differences which characterise two countries with broadly similar population levels such as France and the United Kingdom. Although France possesses nearly twice the number of screens as the UK, admissions in France were only 13% higher in 1995 than those in the UK; on the other hand, the value of gross box office revenues in ECU was 86% higher, due to a higher pricing policy which set average ticket prices in France at 5.4 ECU, as against the UK average of 3.29 ECU, while gross box office revenues per screen were slightly lower (160,952 ECU as against 188,526 ECU in the UK).
The following two graphs allow more detailed analysis of the characteristics
of cinema exhibition in Europe, with particular reference to the density
of cinemas per inhabitant and the extent of concentration of ownership.
Graph 9 shows annual per capita frequency of cinema going, the number of cinemas per million of population and the average number of admissions per cinema. One example of an instructive comparison which emerges from the graph is the one between Italy and Germany. These two countries have substantially similar patterns of cinema going per capita, but with a markedly different density of cinemas per inhabitant: in particular, Germany has far fewer cinemas per million of population than Italy , and consequently achieves far higher levels of admissions per cinema (65,000 as against 44,000).
In addition to the falling numbers of cinemas compared to population levels, it is also interesting to look at another phenomenon which has been characteristic of the exhibition industry in recent years, namely the concentration of many theatres in the hands of a few major operators.
With regard to this issue, graph 10 shows the average number of screens per exhibitor, average number of cinemas per exibitor and the average number of screens per theatre. The country with the highest number of both theatres and screens per exhibitor is France, due to the large number of small multiscreen cinemas with an average of 2.07 screens per theatre. Belgium, Ireland and the United Kingdom, on the other hand, are the countries where the concentration in terms of screens is highest, owing to the widespread operation of multiplexes: these countries have the highest average number of screens per cinema, with Belgium at 3.19, Ireland at 3.03 and the UK at 2.76. The situation in other countries is quite different. In Austria, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Norway, Portugal and Switzerland, for example, ownership is highly fragmented and the percentage of single screen theatres is still high (this is true of Italy in particular, where 86% of screens are still sited in single screen theatres).
An overall idea of the efficiency of cinema exhibition in Europe can
be obtained from joint consideration of the 1995 figures for gross box
office revenues in ECU per screen, from the admissions per screen and from
the average ticket price, derived from the relation between the first two
In this regard, graph 11 shows the wide variety of scenarios currently found in Europe:
- some countries, such as Belgium, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, have figures higher than the European average for both admissions per screen and gross box office revenues per screen;
- the only country which combines a high level of utilization of screens with lower than average revenues is Spain, a peculiarity doubtless connected to the fact that its average ticket price in 1995 was the lowest in Europe;
- some countries, such as Finland, Greece, Norway and Sweden, have figures lower than the European average for both box office revenues and admissions per screen;
- lastly a number of countries, such as Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland, are characterized by a lower rate of utilization of screens, but have higher gross box office revenues than the European average, as a result of higher pricing policies.
With reference to admission trends throughout the year, graph
12 shows quarterly percentages of total annual attendance in 1995 for
France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, together with the European
average. Once again, the well established seasonal fluctuations can be
traced. The country most affected by seasonal variation was Italy. Lastly,
taking into consideration phenomena linked to the types of films screened,
the first feature worthy of note is that in Europe in 1995 the number of
titles distributed remained stable at the same level as in 1994, the year
when the downward trend of the previous five years was finally halted.
At the level of individual European countries, graph
13 allows in depth analysis of admissions and numbers of titles distributed,
while the relation of these two variables yields the figure for average
admission per film. One striking feature is that the country with the highest
number of titles distributed is France, with an average of 336,000 admissions
per film. As regards the specifics of production and distribution of European
1 shows the number of admissions achieved by the top ten European films
in the various countries , highlighting nations of origin along each line
and countries where distributed in each column. One feature which emerges
clearly is that films produced in France and the United Kingdom took the
lion's share of distribution at European level; in particular, UK productions
were among the top ten European films at the box office in all countries
Analysis of the statistics as they develop in the course of time yields
twofold results: on the one hand, it makes possible a wider vision of patterns
in the cinema industry, and in a clearer perspective, too; on the other,
it allows revenues and prices to be shown in their respective national
currencies, thus avoiding the pitfalls of incomparability between European
countries which derive from fluctuating exchange rates.
Particular attention was paid to changes in the figures recorded for 1995 as compared to the previous year.
Graph 14 shows how much of the percentage variation registered by gross box office revenues (in domestic currency) in 1995 as compared to 1994 was due to a percentage variation in average ticket prices (in domestic currency), and how much was due to a percentage variation in admissions.
It may be noted that the following basic scenarios emerged:
- a downward swing in gross box office revenues, accompanied by lower admissions compared to 1994 and by increased average ticket prices;
- no substantial change in revenues as against 1994, as was the case in Ireland and the United Kingdom, where the rise in ticket prices compensated for a fall in admissions, and in the Netherlands, which was the only country where average ticket price fell during 1995;
- an upward swing in gross box office revenues, in a context, however, of different policies implemented by the various countries: in Switzerland, for example, despite the fall in admissions, gross box office revenues were up thanks to a hefty increase in average ticket price; in France, Greece and Spain, increased revenues were due to a percentage variation in admissions higher than that for average ticket price.
Graph 15 has been compiled in much the same way as the one just described, with the sole difference that for each country the box office revenues and average ticket price have been expressed in real terms, i.e. removing the variation during the same period of the consumer price index (inflation rate), so as to consider the real purchasing power of the currencies.
In real terms, revenues were down in all countries except France, Greece and Spain, where higher revenues came from increased admissions, set against a slight downturn in average ticket price, again in real terms.
So far as countries with reduced revenues are concerned, two basic situations may be noted:
- in some countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Germany, Luxemburg, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, a rise in average ticket prices went hand in hand with reduced admissions;
- in other countries, such as Iceland, Italy and the Netherlands, average ticket prices fell in real terms compared to 1994, although patterns of admissions were variable, decreasing in Iceland and Italy and increasing in the Netherlands.
The variation in gross box office revenues (in nominal values) over
1994-1995 was also analysed with reference to the percentage variation
recorded in the number of cinemas per million of population, in order to
verify whether the reduced number of operators might have resulted in increased
average revenues for those theatres still active.
Graph 16 illustrates the two different situations which have arisen as a result of the widespread decline in the numbers of cinema theatres in operation:
- in most countries (Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, France and above all Iceland and Ireland) there were actual increases in gross box office revenues per cinema;
- in other countries, such as Denmark, Belgium, Luxemburg and Sweden, on the other hand, operating cinema exhibitors saw their revenues fall, sometimes considerably. These conditions remain essentially unchanged when trends in gross box office per cinema in the various countries are analysed in real terms; the only exceptions are Germany and the United Kingdom, where in real terms cinema box office receipts dropped by 1% and 1.5% respectively compared to 1994.
Another interesting feature, which emerges from graph
17, is that in most countries which in 1995 saw a downward swing in
the number of cinemas per million of population, annual per capita frequency
of cinema going was also down on 1994 levels. The only exceptions to this
rule were France and the Netherlands.
Lastly Fig. 3 gives annual per capita frequency of cinema going for 1995, compared country by country with trends in frequency of cinema going over the period 1989 1995. Three basic patterns emerge:
- a downward trend of frequency in recent years, in Nordic countries and Portugal ;
- substantially stable patterns of cinema going in the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark and in Switzerland and France, where figures are, however, currently higher;
- a rising trend in frequency during the period examined, characteristic of countries such as Austria, Luxemburg, Belgium and above all the United Kingdom, Spain and Ireland, where the figures are currently above the European average of 1.8.
Institute of Business Administration
Catholic University - Milan, Italy