Theatrical admissions on the leading European markets
Admissions (x 1 000)
1) Cinetel data
2) Source for 2015-2020: Federal Fund for Economic and Social Support of Russian Cinematography (Cinema Fund)
A two-speed Europe
by Elisabetta Brunella
It has often been said, but it’s true this time, as well: cinema-going in Europe often reveals different characteristics according to the countries considered.
And 2021, the second year marked by the pandemic, which has not spared a single country on the Old Continent, is no exception to the rule.
As we write there are no final figures yet but, on the basis of provisional figures or estimates, there are plenty of different readings oscillating somewhere between concern and optimism. Will 2022 really be the year we return to the movie theatre? Or will it confirm the hypotheses of those who foresee that the new forms of consumption of audiovisual products that boomed during lockdown will prevail?
But let’s take a look at the figures.
Of the six leading European markets, five close 2021 with a plus sign, whilst Italy alone registers a slight dip. According to Cinetel, (the organisation for reporting admissions jointly promoted by distributors and exhibitors) admissions in the Bel Paese have decreased by around 11% and box-office, instead, has been limited to 7%, confirming the now generalised trend towards a slight increase in average ticket prices. Amongst the causes of the decreases compared to 2020 are the four months of closure, from January to 26 April.
But the start of 2020 had been particularly brilliant for Italian cinemas. A positive sign, bringing hope for 2022, came in 2021 from the pre-Christmas period, immediately before the adoption of more severe measures for accessing theatres: admissions were only about 10% lower than the same period in 2019, when Covid was as yet unknown.
Before looking at the other leading European markets, let us take a glance at a country which, like Italy, closes with a minus sign, but records a greater percentage drop in spectators. This country is Turkey, a market where screens have increased fourfold and spectators threefold over the past 20 years. In 2021 the figures available up to now indicate a drop of nearly 30% to join the decrease of around 70% experienced in 2020.
News of a more optimistic nature comes from Germany. Here, according to the figures just published by the FFA for the Berlinale, ticket sales in 2021 have totalled 42.1 million. The increase compared to 2020 is 10.4%.
Still more encouraging are the figures provided by the CNC for France which, benefitting from an approximate 47% rise, totals 96 million spectators, adding over 30 million more than in 2020.
A higher percentage increase is recorded in Spain which grows by almost 52%, to reach 41 million spectators, i.e. about 14 million more, compared to 2020.
There is an even more distinct recovery in the United Kingdom, where the increase in admissions is around 68%. From 44 million in 2020 they grow to 74 in 2021. It can be added that the smaller market in nearby Ireland follows suit and reveals a growth rate of a little under 60%.
With a leap forward of 65% Russia confirms its position as Europe’s leading market in terms of admissions, which come to over 145 million in 2021.
And what did audiences go and watch in 2021?
Here the answer is quite simple: unlike 2020, 2021 was the year of blockbusters "made in the USA", including those whose release had been postponed because of the pandemic. And so in the top ten on all six leading European markets appear "Spider-Man: No Way Home", "Dune", "Fast & Furious 9" whilst "No Time to Die" and "Venom" come hard on their heels, asserting themselves amongst the ten box-office champions in five of those countries.
What has made the difference has been the impact of domestic films. In the ultimate top ten in Italy comes "Me contro Te" (6.8% of gbo in the top ten), in Spain "A todo tren. Destino Asturias" (9.8%). In France there are three champions ("Kaamelott-premier volet", "Les Tuche 4" and "BAC Nord" totalling 26.0%), in Germany two ("Schule der magischen Tiere" and "Kaiserschmarrndrama": 10.4%) and two in Russia (both episodes of the fantasy saga "The Last Bogatyr": 24%).
For domestic films more or less everywhere in Europe it has naturally been a very different year from the one preceding it. At that time, in the first year of Covid and lockdown, they were the pillars of cinema on the big screen, with exceptionally high percentages of admissions, which touched on or even amply exceeded 50% on many markets, such as Russia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland and Italy. Not to speak of the 80% peak in Turkey.
Now they have resumed their more habitual role, as minorities. From this point of view, 2021 is already "back to normal".
This is an updated version of the article published in the Berlinale special issue of Cinema & Video Int'l, the MEDIA Salles media partner.