Moviegoing rebound in EU continues

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BRUSSELS -- Cinema attendance rose 4% last year in the European Union to an estimated 924 million, according to estimates released Wednesday by the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg, France.

The surge was led by Germany, which saw a 7.4% rise in audiences to abo136.7 million, and France, with a 7.5% jump to 188.5 million. Both showed a clear recovery from a slump in 2005.

However, the record was mixed in three other major markets. Admissions rose just 1.7% in Italy to 107.3 million, fell 4.7% in Spain to 121.7 million and slipped 4.9% in the U.K. to 156.6 million. All three territories have been on a downward trend since 2002.

A number of small territories saw spectacular rises. Admissions were up 98.1% in Lithuania, 40.2% in Estonia, 35.8% in Poland (to 32 million) and 22.7% in Latvia. Double-digit growth was also seen in Austria (10.6%), the Czech Republic (21.4%), Finland (11.5%) and Slovenia (10.8%), while preliminary results in Slovakia (ahead 54.3%) was the best since 1998.

Outside the EU -- but covered by the EAO survey -- Turkey's 27.8% rise to 34.8 million represented a return to records set in the early 1980s, and Russia's 7.7% rise to 89.5 million reflected its steady growth in recent years.

Many of the countries reporting strong growth also saw solid performances from their local film industries. In France, local films sold more than 84 million tickets, reaching a 45% market share -- only slightly below the 45.8% take earned by U.S. films and the highest local market share registered since 1984.

Home-grown productions also contributed to the revival of the German market, with three local titles in the top 10 for 2006. The country managed its highest national market share (25.8%) since such records began in 1991.

At 45%, France has by far the highest proportion of homegrown films in its audience share. Others with strong local product included the Czech Republic with 29.5%, Italy (26.2%) and Denmark (25%).

Although successful films like "The Queen," "Volver," "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Last King of Scotland" suggest a strong year for British and Spanish movies, national films accounted for only 19% of the U.K. market and 15.4% of the Spanish market.
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