Across Europe, conditions ideal for red-hot summer

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A perfect storm of bad weather, no World Cup soccer and, oh yes, tentpole studio releases saw cinema seats in the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Italy fill up in record numbers from June through August.

In June at Cine Expo in Amsterdam, Italian exhibitors were complaining that no one ever goes to the movies in the summer because the Hollywood studios never release big titles because everyone's at the beach.

Studio executives from Paramount, DreamWorks, Universal, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Disney and Sony told those Doubting Tommasos that this year they would have no such complaints and to prepare their movie houses for a "big summer."

Boxoffice revenue in Italy from June-August hit €78.3 million ($107.3 million) this year, up 24% year-over-year, according to Italian cinema monitoring company Cinetel.

Medusa spokesman Claudio Trionfera said that a blockbuster is still a blockbuster, no matter when it's released. "I've never heard of a film that would have succeeded in the winter fail in the summer," he said.

In the U.K., the wettest British summertime on record, heavily backed tentpole rollouts and nothing on the telly resulted in a record-breaking summer. Boxoffice totals reached £281 million ($569.1 million) for 2007, a 34% rise, according to Nielsen EDI. The Film Distributors' Assn. CEO Mark Batey described July alone as being "unprecedented" in modern times: One-third of the U.K. population went to the cinema that month.

"In the heart of England, it was as wet as it has ever been, a complete washout this summer. So during the school holiday weeks, there were millions of people looking for entertainment under cover," he said.

The early-summer bomb scares played no part in boxoffice fortunes, either, with the British stiff upper lip coming to the fore. "I think everyone just thought, 'Fuck it, we're going out anyway,' " Batey said.

In Germany, the summer boxoffice was up a scorching 27%, hitting €205.8 million ($280 million). Most of the credit has to go to the absence of the World Cup, which Germany hosted. June revenue shot up 204%.

Day-and-date release strategies for tentpole titles also paid off despite naysayers who believed Germans prefer a beer garden to the multiplex when the weather's hot.

"Because of piracy fears, we are seeing more and more day-and-date releases," said Johannes Klingsporn, managing director of German distributors association VdF. "Many people were very skeptical that it would work — especially with 'The Simpsons Movie.' But, as we saw, it took off like a rocket."

Klingsporn sees the trend toward day-and-date increasing across Europe but not just because the studios are worried about Internet piracy.

Spanish summer boxoffice totals reached €172 million ($236 million), a rise of 12%, according to Arturo Guillen of Nielsen in Madrid. Guillen said he couldn't remember a summer with so many big releases so close.

"Even so, the end-of-the-year figure will probably be down from last year because we were below last year before the summer began," he said.

In France, the rainy summer turned out to be good news for Gallic distributors. Admissions during the three summer months leapt 23% to 44.4 million.

"It's always the film that makes the audience," Gaumont topper Francois Clerc said. "Just look at 'Harry Potter 5' for example. The Fourth of July was considered to be a terrible release date, but it was the best opening ever."

Eric J. Lyman in Rome, Rebecca Leffler in Paris, Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany, and Pamela Rolfe in Madrid contributed to this report.
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