EU theaters a little roomy

Germany leads '07 slip in ticket sales

BRUSSELS -- Cinema attendance dropped 2.2% last year in the European Union, according to estimates released Monday by the European Audiovisual Observatory in Strasbourg, France. The provisional figures show that attendance across the EU's 27 member countries stood at 910.1 million in 2007, down from 930.6 million in 2006 but up from 2005's 898.8 million.

The slide was led by Germany, which saw an 8.2% drop in audiences to 125.4 million; France, down 5.6% to 178.1 million; and Spain, with a 7.7% drop to 112.2 million. Other territories seeing a clear decline were Austria (down 9.2%), Belgium (down 6.8%), Denmark (down 3.5%), Hungary (down 13.8%), the Netherlands (down 5.4%) and Slovakia (down 19.9%).

But the record was better in two other major markets: Admissions rose 3.7% in the U.K. to 162.4 million and 8.4% in Italy to 115 million. There was rising attendance in the more recent EU member states: Ticket sales jumped 34% in Lithuania and 11.4% in the Czech Republic, while Bulgaria (up 4.6%), Poland (up 1.8%), Latvia (up 3.9%) and Estonia (up 2.5%) all saw increases.

Outside the EU -- but covered by the EAO survey -- Turkey's attendance fell 10.7% to 31.1 million, Switzerland dipped 12.5% and Norway declined 10.4%. But Russia rose 16.1% to 106.6 million.

Despite the overall shrinking of ticket sales, domestic production performed well in many European territories, with market shares for national films rising in most EU countries. That included the U.K., where British productions rose to a 28% share from 19.1% in 2006; Poland, where it climbed from 15.9% to 27.4%; and Italy; where it surged from 25.8% to 33.1%.

But again, in three of the most important countries, market shares fell: in France (44.6% to 36.5%), Germany (25.8% to 18.9%) and Spain (15.4% to 13.3%).