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We knew it was bad. Now it’s official.
The European box office plunged 70.4 percent last year, down $6.04 billion (5.1 billion euro) from $8.5 billion (7.2 billion euro) in 2019 to $2.5 billion (2.1 billion euro) last year, according to figures published Thursday by the European Audiovisual Observatory.
The coronavirus pandemic forced cinema closures across the European Union and the U.K. in 2020, resulting in a seismic impact on ticket sales. Cinemas throughout most of Europe were shuttered in March 2020 and only allowed to reopen with capacity limitations and other strict restrictions from early summer to the start of Europe’s second COVID wave in late fall.
Even when open, many theaters suffered from a chronic lack of new films, as most Hollywood studios and local independents held titles back.
The result was broadly similar across the continent. U.K. admissions fell 70.2 percent to 300 million tickets, down from more than 1 billion in 2019, with box office down 70.4 percent to $2.4 billion. French box office dropped 70.1 percent to $513 million. Germany was down 69 percent at $377 million, Italy down 71.6 percent to $225 million, and Spain off 73 percent at $191 million. The lowest year-on-year decrease was in Denmark, which saw a 46.5 percent drop on 2019 levels, to $100 million, a fall tempered by the success of local releases, in particular Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-winning dramedy Another Round.
Sam Mendes’ war drama 1917, released ahead of the first lockdown, and Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi puzzler Tenet, the only major studio film released after cinemas reopened in the summer, were the top two performers in Europe last year, selling 15.6 million and 11.6 million tickets, respectively, across the EU and U.K.
The only other film to sell more than 10 million tickets across the region last year was Will Smith/Martin Lawrence-starrer Bad Boys for Life, also released before COVID-19 lockdown, which booked 10.5 million admissions. To compare, in 2019 some 18 films sold more than 10 million tickets in the EU and U.K., led by The Lion King with 51.6 million admissions.
There are hopeful signs that the European box office may be bouncing back.
Admissions to French theaters, open since mid-May, have been at or above pre-pandemic numbers and returns in the U.K., Spain, Poland and the Netherlands have been similarly encouraging. Theaters in Germany, most of which have been shut since the start of the country’s second lockdown last October, open today, July 1.
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