Southern European Woes Drag Down Box Office

Overall admissions fall 0.9 percent in Europe despite hits like "Skyfall" and box office gains across Northern Europe and Russia.

BERLIN – Europe's cinema market continues to be a tale of two regions with crisis-hit territories in the South seeing box office plunge with Northern countries enjoy record returns.

Figures released Friday by the European Audiovisual Observatory showed that while box office last year was booming in Russia, Germany, the U.K. and across Scandinavia, it couldn't compensate for declines in Spain, France and Italy.

Overall, the EAO found that ticket sales fell 0.9 percent across the 37 countries it surveyed, which include European neighbors Russia and Turkey. The drop was starker in the 27 nations making up the European Union, where admissions fell 2.4 percent last year.

In the top four EU territories (France, U.K., Germany and Italy) – which together make up nearly two-thirds of EU admissions, ticket sales fell 2.8 percent as declines in Italy and France canceled out gains in Germany and Britain.

The pattern largely maps onto that of economic performance across Europe. In Germany, the U.K. and Scandinavia, territories largely spared the worst of the European economic crisis, box office was strong. Gross box office revenues jumped 5.7 percent in the U.K., 7.8 percent in Germany and the Nordic territories of Denmark, Sweden and Finland all posted double digit gains. On the other end of the scale were the battered economies of the South, which have seen unemployment soar and industrial output slump during the crisis. The largest box office drops were seen in Italy (8 percent), Portugal (7.6 percent) and Spain (6.5 percent).

Further afield, the news was brighter. Russian box office jumped 14 percent last year, while Turkey enjoyed a 5.9 percent bump.

While Turkey's boost came largely thanks to local films – eight out of the top 12 box office performers in the territory were Turkish films, Germany managed to increase revenue despite a dearth of local hits. In the U.K. it was Hollywood productions based on Brit franchises: new James Bond film Skyfall, which has grossed more than $160 million the U.K., making it the most successful film ever there and Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which earned some $81 million in Britain.