AFTER TWO RECORD YEARS, A SLIGHT DIP IN AUDIENCES IN EUROPE'S CINEMAS SLOWDOWN OR STOP IN THE GROWTH OF AVERAGE TICKET PRICES
OVER 50% OF EUROPEAN SCREENS NOW DIGITAL
In the 31 countries where initial - not yet final - figures are available on cinema-going in 2011, from Russia to Portugal and from Ireland to Turkey, admissions prove to be slightly down after two record years: audiences stand at 1,191.3 million, compared to 1,195.9 million in 2010, with a 0.4% dip.
The 17 countries of Western Europe in particular total 897.3 milion spectators, only a modest difference (-0.1%) compared to 2010, when 898.3 million tickets were sold: the situation can be described as basically stable.
Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim, where the MEDIA Salles analysis covered 14 countries, register a more visible drop: 294.0 million spectators in 2011 compared to 297.6 million in 2010 (-1.2%).
If the overall figures show substantial stability in cinema-going in Europe as a whole, from the market analysis widely varying situations emerge.
The six leading markets
The fact that trends in admissions to the big screen in 2011 vary widely can be clearly seen by analyzing the six leading countries, accounting for about 74% of European audiences.
France continues to grow, consolidating its position as Europe's leading cinema market and recording 215.6 million admissions (+4.2%). Also growing are the United Kingdom (with 171.6 million, +1.4%) and Germany (129.6 million, +2.3%). Italy, instead, is marked by a minus sign, recording a variation estimated at around -8% following the extraordinary development in 2010, as are Spain, which continues on a negative path that has lasted for some years now, receding well behind the 100-million threshold (95.6 million) with a -5.9% dip compared to 2010, and Russia, with 161.5 million in 2011 as against 166.0 million in 2010 (around -3%).
On other Western-European markets, too, contradictory trends are recorded: whilst Switzerland (+0.9%) and Ireland (-0.8%) remain basically stable, Greece (-7%), Finland (-6.1%), Portugal (-5.2%), Denmark (-4.3%) and Austria (-3%) all lose audiences.
Amongst those countries that experience growth, the record goes to the Netherlands (+8.0%). Luxembourg (+5.4%) and Belgium (+2%) and, amongst the northern countries, Sweden (+3.7%) and Norway (+5.8%) also do well.
Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim
The general tendency is more negative compared to Western Europe (-1.2% compared to 2010), and these countries, too, experience trends that are anything but homogeneous.
Extremely high growth rates are recorded in Bulgaria (+18.7%), Lithuania (+17.7%), Estonia (+15.9%) and Romania (+15.2%). More moderate increases are to be seen for Cyprus (+2.5%), Poland (+3.2%), Turkey (+1.8%) and Slovenia (+0.7%).
On the other hand, there are countries experiencing considerable drops, such as the Czech Republic (-20.3%) and the Republic of Slovakia (-10.6%).
A slighter dip is recorded, instead, in Croatia (-2%), Hungary (-4%) and Latvia (-2.1%).
The cinema confirms its role as popular entertainment
In the Eurozone, average ticket prices are basically stable or even dropping, after a couple of years during which the effect of 3D made itself felt, encouraging higher prices. As examples, there are increases of 2.5% in Portugal, 1.7% in Germany, 1.3% in the Netherlands, 1.1% in Spain, 0.7% in Austria, 0.6% in Greece.
In some countries the average price falls, for example in Italy (around -0.6%) and Ireland
(-3.1%). Finland reveals a counter-tendency with an increase of 5.6%.
Over 50% of European screens are now digital
In 2011 Europe's digital screens continue to grow in number and are estimated to be around 18,500 at 1 January 2012, experiencing a 79% rise compared to 1 January 2011, when there were 10,335.
Now that over 50% of total screens have switched to the new technologies, Europe has reached "tipping point", the watershed in the process of digitalization.
On examining the total numbers of the new 2D digital projectors, compared to those equipped for 3D, a novelty emerges, which characterizes 2011 compared to the previous year: 3D no longer represents the main engine of growth. It has in fact made way for the all-digital process launched by the big circuits.
2012 thus opens with a crucial question for the future of Europe's cinemas as a whole, including those that have not yet shifted to digital: will the economic models that have allowed digitalization of the large circuits be capable of working for the smaller theatres and independent exhibitors, too?
Secretary General of MEDIA Salles
Note:The situation reported in this article is an update of the figures presented at the Berlinale on 11 February 2012
Who we are
Founded in 1991, MEDIA Salles, is a project operating within the framework of the European Union's MEDIA Programme, with the support of the Italian Government. The promotion of European films has always occupied the central place in its mission, through the provision of information and training, specifically addressing cinema exhibitors. In terms of information, MEDIA Salles provides statistics on cinema-going trends in all European countries and on the leading world markets. This service has been joined over the past few years by a census of digital cinemas in Europe and the elaboration of data and trends in digitalization worldwide. As regards training, in 2012 the ninth edition will be held of the only MEDIA Programme course devoted to new technologies from the theatres' point of view: "DigiTraining Plus: European Cinemas Experiencing New Technologies" (Amsterdam, 29 August- 2 September).
On the website www.mediasalles.it, the section DGT online informer is periodically updated and the European Cinema Yearbook can be consulted (http://www.mediasalles.it/publicaz.htm).
In addition the MEDIA Salles Facebook page provides professional players and all those interested with a time-to-market on the international distribution of Italian films, complete with dates, countries of release and useful information.