European Films Still Struggle to Cross Borders

Sony Pictures Classics/Photofest
Michael Haneke's 'The White Ribbon' was the only European film screened in all 26 EU countries between 2005-2014.

European releases outnumber U.S. titles four to one but few Euro films have an impact outside their home territory, new study finds.

There's no shortage of European movies but few European films are seen outside their home country, a new study by the European Audiovisual Observatory has found.

The study, which looked at films released in theaters across all 26 countries of the European Union (EU) as well as those available online via video-on-demand (VOD) services, found that while EU titles dominate by volume, the average European film struggles to cross national borders.

Of the more than 10 thousand films released in the EU between 2005-2014, 64 percent were of EU origin, the Observatory found. But those titles only accounted for 27.4 percent of total cinema admissions over the same period. Compare that to U.S. films, which racked up 70.1 percent of total cinema admissions, despite accounting for just 16 percent of total releases.

The study, released Thursday, suggests European films have trouble finding an audience outside their home countries. The average U.S. film got a theatrical release in 10 EU countries, while the figure for the typical EU title was 2.5. Fully 63 percent of EU films were released in one country only and 80 percent were released in 3 or fewer.

Over the time period of the study, there was just one EU film that got a theatrical release in every single EU country: Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winner The White Ribbon.

The Observatory's study suggests language remains a major barrier. The distribution of EU films tends to cluster around linguistic regions. French films play in French-speaking Switzerland and Belgium, German ones in Austria, for example, but rarely make it beyond that.

European animated films, which are dubbed into local languages, do much better. The average EU animated feature got a theatrical bow in 6.3 countries.

The study found the same pattern on VOD services. Looking at transactional VOD services, such as Apple's iTunes (and not subscription services like Netflix), the Observatory found the average EU film was available in 3 or fewer countries, compared to an average of nearly 7 countries per film for U.S. titles.

Again, however, the number of European titles dwarfs that of U.S. films. 58 percent of all films available on transactional VOD services in the region are of EU origin, only 27 percent are from the U.S..