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BOX OFFICE Europa

MEDIA Salles: drop in audiences, digital screens grow

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A tendency to decline but not everywhere: this sums up the 2007 trend as regards cinema audiences ( European Cinema Yearbook – 2007 final edition). The exact opposite of 2006, where the plus sign was the general rule, although, there again, with some exceptions.

From the figures available to date, which regard 25 countries, 22 belonging to the EU, it can be seen that ticket sales have declined on average by 2.1% in the European Union, dropping from 911.5 to 892.2 million. In Northern Europe the drop is equal to 2.6% (from 869.6 to 846.9 million), whilst in the central and eastern part of the continent and on the Mediterranean Rim it amounts to 3.5% (from 105.1 to 101.4 million).

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France, Spain and Germany close 2007 with considerable decreases, whilst the United Kingdom grows and Italy takes wing. The leading European market continues to be France which, whilst losing over 10 million spectators (from 188.7 to 178.1 million), obtains a better result than in 2005. Germany leaves behind 11 million tickets, dropping to 125.4 million and returning to its 1995 position. Eleven million fewer spectators for Spain, too, which experiences its third consecutive drop and closes with a little over 112 million spectators: for a similar result we have to look back to 1998. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, sees a happy ending to 2007 (+3.8%), recovering most of the spectators lost in 2006 and, with 162.4 million spectators (of which over 38 were counted in July and August alone), confirms itself as the second largest market in Europe. Italy grows to the extent of almost 12%, according to Cinetel estimates, which cover around 90% of the market, recording over 114 million spectators. With this flattering result, the best since 1986, due mostly to the success of films “made in Italy”, accounting for as much as 34% of the market, Italy overtakes Spain and is no longer in last place on the leading five European markets. Remaining in western Europe a positive trend can also be seen in a smaller country like Ireland, which grows by 2.9%, crossing the 18-million spectator threshold for the first time. Portugal (-0.3%), Denmark (-0.8%), Sweden (-0.9%) and Finland (-1.3%) are characterised by basically stable results or with slight dips, whilst the other countries experience sometimes substantial decreases, ranging from Belgium’s -6,2% to Switzerland’s -12,5% and including Austria’s -9,5% and Norway’s -10,4%. The Netherlands deserve special attention since the comparison between the 2006 and 2007 figures have to take into account the fact that in 2006 53 weeks were counted. Comparisons based on 52 weeks reduce the 5.4% difference by around 2 points.

In central-eastern Europe and on the Mediterranean Rim one of the two leading markets, Poland, remains basically stable (32.6 million spectators compared to the 32.4 of 2006), whilst a positive result characterises Estonia (+2.5%), Latvia (+3.9%), Bulgaria (+4.6%) and the Czech Republic, where the increase, estimated at over 4%, is also due to the positive result by domestic films. The increase in spectators seen in most countries, however, fails to compensate for the drop recorded in Romania (approx. -14%), in Slovakia (-19%) and on the second largest market - Turkey - which, according to initial estimates, decreases from almost 35 millioni tickets to 31 (-11%).

In terms of infrastructures, the number of screens in Western Europe remains stable, whilst signs of growth are recorded in central-eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim. At 31 October 2007 there were 11,883 screens in multiplexes all over Europe, compared to the 11,393 twelve months before.

During 2007 the number of digital screens worldwide practically doubled, rising from 2 866 to 5 824. In the same period Europe advanced from 531 to 824 installations, with a 55% increase.

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