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European cinema group UNIC is predicting a major box office bounce back this year, forecasting ticket revenue across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) could jump 75 percent to $7.8 billion.
The blockbuster success of Marvel/Disney superhero tentpole Spider-Man: No Way Home, as well as strong local titles, including French comedy Les Tuches 4 and Russian fantasy adventure drama Posledniy bogatyr 3, have raised hopes that 2022 could mark the end of the coronavirus pandemic plunge at the European box office.
Spider-Man, which became the first film released after the start of the pandemic to earn more than $1.5 billion at the global box office, brought audiences back to theaters en masse across Europe. The movie, starring Tom Holland, Benedict Cumberbatch and Zendaya, has taken in more than $105 million in the U.K. and Ireland, some $55 million in France and more than $41 million in Russia.
“Having faced the unprecedented challenges of the COVID pandemic, 2021 saw cinemas across the globe move swiftly along the road to recovery, with all signs suggesting that 2022 will be a pivotal year for the industry,” the UNIC said Friday. “Across Europe in particular, last year saw significant gains in 2020 box office revenues as cinema audiences flocked back to an exciting and diverse slate of new releases.”
The 2022 slate looks even better, with a blockbuster-heavy calendar of upcoming movies, including The Batman, Top Gun: Maverick, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar 2.
The UNIC is particularly upbeat given the fact that, despite the current Omicron variant-driven surge in COVID-19 infections across the continent, few European countries have shut down cinemas, as happened during a similar COVID infection wave this time last year.
Citing numbers from London-based Gower Street Analytics, UNIC noted that for the periods where cinemas were open box office results have been closer to pre-pandemic levels. Ticket revenue in the U.K. and Ireland in the fourth quarter of 2021 was just 11 percent off the average for the same period in the three years from 2017 to 2019, Gower noted. Box office in France over the same time was just 18 percent lower, and Russia was 29 percent below the pre-pandemic average.
“It is clear that recovery is now well underway, with cinemas across Europe now storming back from the ravages of COVID,” said UNIC CEO Laura Houlgatte. “But we are also of course dependent on a strong and diverse film slate, catering for all audience tastes.”
In a perhaps predictable poke at streaming services, Houlgatte said seeing online platforms as a “substitute for the theatrical experience” would “invariably only result in disappointed cinema audiences, rampant piracy and — crucially — reduced overall revenues.” Addressing the entire cinema industry, particularly those who make and invest in movies, she asked people to “recognize
the economic as well as cultural value of our proven business model, and to redouble their efforts to support a strong, diverse and reliable supply of film content to cinemas.”
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