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Forget China. For the Hollywood studios, Europe is (still) where the money is.
Box office revenue for the 28 countries of the European Union hit $8.4 billion (€7.3 billion) in 2015, according to data published Wednesday by the European Audiovisual Observatory. That’s a 16 percent jump over 2014 and, not adjusting for inflation, is an all-time record.
Compare that to box office in China last year, which topped out at $6.78 billion. The North America remains the world’s largest movie market, with a record $11 billion in box office revenue in 2015.
Box office growth in China —48.7 percent last year—easily outstrips old Europe but most of that new money is staying put. U.S. movies accounted for just 38.4 percent of the Chinese market, down from 45.5 percent in 2014.
In Europe, Hollywood films accounted for 64 percent of the market, driven by blockbusters and sequels such as Star Wars: Episode VIII – the Force Awakens, Minions, Spectre and Jurassic World. All four sold more than 30 million tickets in Europe last year.
The studios can get more movies into Europe than China, which has a quota on foreign films, and more favorable deals mean more of the cash from European ticket sales stays in the studios’ pockets.
2015 was also a banner year in terms of tickets sold: admissions hit 976 million in Europe, 67.5 million more than 2014. That’s the second-highest number on record, after 2009, when Avatar and the novelty of 3D was driving fans into theaters.
What’s also notable is that box office revenues, measured in local currencies, grew in every single market for which the European Audiovisual Observatory had provisional data available. Leading the charge were markets in the UK and Ireland, which, helped by a strong British Pound, saw a $459 million (€400 million), or 30 percent, jump in revenues. Germany, which enjoyed a 19 percent box office bump of $215 million (€187 million) compared to 2014.
UK films also enjoyed the largest share of their local box office, accounting for 44.5 percent of the total box office take in the territory. This was thanks to UK-made movies with US studio investment, such as Star Wars, Spectre, The Martian and Kingsman: The Secret Service. British independent films, made without studio support, accounted for a 10.6 percent share.
In comparison, French films such as Olivier Megaton’s Taken 3 accounted for 35 percent of the local market. In Germany, the figure was 27.5 percent, helped by the Bora Dagtekin-helmed comedy Fack Ju Göhte 2, the only non-English language film to crack the top 20 at the European box office last year.
Overall, European films’ share of the region’s total box office slipped to 26.1 percent, the lowest level in five years.
Outside the EU, Russian box office, in local currency terms, increased 1.9 percent to $666 million (44.1 billion Rubles) and revenues in Turkey grew 4 percent to $242 million (681 million Turkish Lira), their highest level for several decades.
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