An improvement but not for everyone. This is how the trend of cinema-going in European cinemas might be summed up for 2006. Following a 2005 marked by a minus sign almost everywhere, the year that has just ended has represented a breath of fresh air for European cinema exhibition in general.
Cinema-going in the European Union
From the figures available to date, which regard 27 countries, it can be seen that audiences have experienced an average growth rate of 3,8%, rising from 895,6 to 929,9.
The 19 countries of Western Europe for which figures are already available show an average increase in admissions of around 2,6%. A good sign for the future, though not measuring up to expectations, if we consider that in various countries the first half of the year was characterised by a two-figure increase. But the improvement nevertheless took place: from 833,3 to 855,2 million tickets. Two of the continent’s five big markets were mainly responsible for contributing to this. In first place comes France which, with over 188 million spectators (+8,3% compared to 2005), achieves the second best result since 1984. Next comes Germany which sees an audience growth of 7,4% compared to 2005. However, despite an increase of over 9 million spectators, this market does not succeed in recovering the heavy drop recorded between 2004 and 2005. The total of 136,7 million spectators still remains below the average for the 2000s (over 150 million). Also marked by a plus sign are smaller markets such as The Netherlands (+13,4%), Austria (+10,6%), Finland (+10,4%), Switzerland (+9,6%), Ireland (+8,9%), Belgium (+8,7%), Luxembourg (+8,1%), Iceland (+7,4%), Norway (+6,2%), Sweden (+4,7%), Portugal (+3,9%) and Denmark (+3,4%). Admissions remain stable in a large market such as Italy, where 102,4 million tickets were sold for screens operating at least 60 days a year, and in Greece. Going against the trend is Liechtenstein, which loses 1,8%. Suffering from a considerable drop in audiences are two of the five big countries: the United Kingdom (-4,9%) and Spain (-3,2%). Whilst the former, although losing almost 8 million tickets, obtains a result in line with those of the first few years of the 2000s, Spain, losing about 4 million spectators, drops to 123,5 million admissions, the lowest result since 1998. For the second consecutive year the number of screens in Spain decreases, too, diminishing by over 150 units over a two-year period. From 1990 to 2004 the number of screens had experienced an uninterrupted run of growth.
Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim
In general, Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim obtain decidedly flattering results, recording admissions increasing by 20,6%. Spectators thus increase from 94,4 to 113,8 million. Here too, however, there is no escape from the general trend, which sees quite different situations in the individual territories.
All with above-average growth are both big markets such as Poland (+29,7%), which recovers almost all the spectators lost in 2005, and Turkey (+26%), as well as smaller countries such as the Slovak Republic (+55,5%), Estonia (+40,1%), Latvia (+27,5%), Croatia (+22,8%), Czech Republic (+21,4%) and Slovenia (+9,9%). An exceptional growth is recorded in Lithuania, which more than doubles its spectators (+108,6%).
Instead, decreases are recorded in Serbia and Montenegro (-30%) and to a smaller extent in Malta (-4,4%), Hungary (-3,8%), Bulgaria (-2,4%), Romania (-1,9%), and Cyprus (-1,1%).
Multiplexes in Europe
In Europe as a whole, complexes with at least 8 screens rose in number, between January 2006 and January 2007, from 1 031 to 1 081, for a total of respectively 11 072 and 11 612 screens (+4,9%).
This is a growth trend that has been going on without a break since the mid-Nineties but which has slowed down lately (the growth rate between 2005 and 2006 was of 5,4%). If many more multiplexes are not opened, the latest trend emerging from an analysis of the situation country by country as shown in the Yearbook, proves extremely dynamic, especially as regards changes in ownership, with companies quitting territories (such as Intercom in Hungary and Romania and Europlex in Italy) and businesses consolidating their presence on the market through takeovers (for example UCI in Italy, Cinesa in Spain and Mediapro in Romania) or mergers (for example, again in Spain, Abaco and Cinebox).
Digital screens worldwide
The first half of 2007 confirmed a trend that had already manifested itself at the beginning of the year: the considerable increase in screens equipped with digital projectors using DLP CinemaTM technology. The total worldwide over a 12-month period increased almost three times over, rising from 1 354 to 4 205, with a 211% increase. However, the different continents deal with the digital transition at highly varying rates: in the same period North America grew by 307%, totalling 3 106 installations, Europe by 165% (694) and Asia by 16,5% (360).
The number of complexes housing digital screens grew from 652 to 1 363 in 2007, meaning that the average number of digital projectors per site has risen from 2,1 to 3,1. This can be considered further proof of the fact that exhibition companies tend to consider the installation of a digital projector not so much a technical trial with the aim of becoming familiar with a new type of equipment, but a strategic choice.
Secretary General of MEDIA Salles