Europe Hits Record $8.5 Billion Box Office in 2012

"Skyfall" sold 44.4 million tickets across the EU, compared to 36 million in North America.

"Skyfall" helps European films to a market share of more than 30 percent.

Box office revenue in Europe hit a new high of $8.5 billion (€6.47 billion) last year, even as admissions slipped slightly and several territories experienced a major recession-led drop in sales.

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Figures released Tuesday by the European Audiovisual Observatory show that total box-office revenue in the 27 countries of the European Union topped last year's record figure to set a new high-water mark. This was despite a slight drop in overall attendance, with 933.3 million tickets sold across the EU last year, 2.2 percent fewer than in 2011. Higher average ticket prices, driven by a continued appetite for 3D films, more than made up the difference.

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Hollywood continues to dominate European screens, and U.S. productions accounted for 62.8 percent of EU ticket sales last year, a 1 percent increase, with Ice Age: Continental Drift the most popular U.S. import, selling 31.4 million tickets across Europe. 

European films were even stronger, however, thanks in large part to Sam Mendes' James Bond film Skyfall, which sold 44.4 million tickets across the EU last year, making it the most successful film in the region. The only other European title to crack the top ten in 2012 was French comedy The Intouchables, which sold 24 million tickets, just behind Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and more than The Avengers in Europe. Two other strong performers were Olivier Megaton's action thriller Taken 2 (10.4 million tickets sold) and Juan Antonio Bayona's tsunami drama The Impossible, which sold 6.5 million tickets last year, the bulk of them in Spain.

Overall, EU theater goers bought 313 million tickets for European movies last year, a 12 percent jump on 2011, and European titles accounted for more than a third (33.6 percent) of overall admissions, a 5.6 percent increase.

That positive news, however, masks the major drops in EU countries suffering from the Euro crisis, particularly in the recession-wracked south. Admissions were down 10 percent in Italy, 6.7 percent in Greece and 12 percent in Portugal. In Spain, admissions fell 5 percent and would have been much worse without The Impossible, which earned more than $54 million locally, the best-ever performance by a Spanish title. Even France, home to Europe's largest theatrical audience, saw a substantial drop in ticket sales, with admissions falling 6.3 percent year-on-year, to 203.4 million.

On the plus side were Germany (4.3 percent increase), Finland (up 19.7 percent) and Romania (up 15.4 percent), with the U.K. holding steady as Skyfall made up for the lack of a Harry Potter title in release last year.