Europe enjoys boxoffice bonanza in 2009

Hollywood tentpoles, 3D prices contribute to record year

COLOGNE, Germany -- Boxoffice across Europe hit an all-time high last year, jumping 12% to €6.27 billion ($8 billion) with Hollywood tentpoles and premium-priced 3D tickets swelling distributors' coffers across the continent. Admissions were also up 6% to 981 million sold.

Europe's biggest territories saw some of the strongest growth. Germany enjoyed a 13% admissions surge, France boosted ticket sales by 5.7%, the U.K. jumped 5.6%.

But figures released Thursday from the European Audiovisual Observatory show growth across the board. Boxoffice revenue increased in 21 of 23 European Union countries last year -- with recession-hit Ireland and tiny Latvia the only exceptions.

The numbers, however, also show an increasing polarization on the European theatrical market. The top 100 films accounted for 75% of total admissions last year, up from 69% in 2008. And the number of blockbusters -- titles selling 5 million tickets or more in Europe -- increased to 42 from 34 a year earlier.

With few exceptions, those tend to be made in the U.S. Hollywood titles accounted for 67% of European ticket sales, the highest level since 2003. Leading the way was "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," the number one film in Europe last year, with more than 40 million admissions.

Although Europe's subsidy system continues to churn out features -- 1,168 full-length fiction and documentaries last year -- European films' share of ticket sales slipped 1.5% to 26.7%.

Regional exceptions were, Germany, where local films accounted for 27.4% of overall sales and Sweden, which, thanks to its home-grown "Millennium" franchise, saw local market share jump to 32.7% last year.

When it comes to pan-European success, French films still dominate, accounting for 8.7% of overall ticket sales across the EU. German titles come second, with a 4.1% overall market share, followed by British films, which accounted for a 3.9% share of European ticket sales.