European Box Office Sees First Quarter Recovery

Universal Pictures
"Despicable Me 2," a Hollywood blockbuster produced in Paris, was the top grossing film in Europe in 2013.

Figures from the European Audiovisual Observatory point to an increase in ticket sales after box office in 2013 fell to the lowest level in eight years.

Europe’s theatrical business is doing a bit better this year, at least compared to the disaster that was 2013. That is one conclusion to take from a study released Friday by the European Audiovisual Observatory, a research body associated with the Council of Europe.

Their figures point to a slight uptick – 5.6 percent – in admissions across the five biggest territories in the EU: Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Spain – with just under 180 million tickets sold in those five countries in the first quarter of this year compared to just over 170 million in Q1 2013. The figures are not definitive as the Audiovisual Observatory collects them from different sources which use different methodologies but can be considered broadly indicative of general trends for the region.

STORY: German Box Office Falls in First Quarter

Last year, according to the group, gross box office across all 28 European Union countries fell to $8.7 billion (€6.29 billion), a 4.3 percent year-on-year drop and its lowest level since 2005. Admissions dropped to 907.1 million, also the lowest seen since 2005.

The study points to 3D fatigue, with the decline in cinema attendance no longer being compensated by the boost in revenue provided by higher-price tickets for 3D titles.

But Europe is nothing if not diverse and the market trends outlined in the study point to major differences among the region’s different countries. So while major increases in first quarter ticket sales were seen in France (18.9 percent), Italy (13 percent) and Spain (8.7 percent), attendance in Germany fell 6.8 percent over the same period and U.K. ticket sales fell 4.9 percent.

Good news for the industry came from Euro-adjacent territories such as Turkey (30.9 percent admissions increase in Q1) and Russia (18.6 percent increase).

STORY: Local Movies Roar at Russian Box Office

In Western Europe it was Sweden which showed the biggest admissions bump, with ticket sales up nearly 18 percent. Much of that was due to the blockbuster success of local language book adaptation The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, which has grossed some $23 million in the territory.