The European Audiovisual Observatory estimates that 2010 gross box office takings in the European Union increased by 5 per cent year-on-year to around €6.45 billion, the highest level on record. In contrast to 2009 box office growth was exclusively driven by an increase in average ticket prices as admissions actually decreased by 1.6 per cent to 967 million tickets sold.
These data seem to reflect the impact of 3D films in their second year on the market. While it can be assumed that the novelty factor of 3D had significantly contributed in driving growth in cinema attendance in 2009, 3D films failed to further increase ticket sales in 2010 but kept cinema attendance at the second highest level since 2004 and caused the average ticket price to increase by an estimated 6.8 per cent. A surge in 3D screens helped an increasing number of stereoscopic blockbusters to better exploit their market potential and caused market shares for 3D films to increase dramatically in major European markets like France and Germany, where they took 16 per cent and 17 per cent of total admissions, or the UK and Russia, where they took 24 per cent and 20 per cent of total GBO.
The dramatic increase in market share of primarily US 3D blockbusters over the past two years seems to have contributed to market share for European films falling to the lowest level in the past five years. After steadily rising to 28.3 per cent in 2008, the market share for European films in the EU decreased to 26.8 per cent in 2009 and 25.3 per cent in 2010, according to provisional estimates by the European Audiovisual Observatory. Market share for US films on the other hand grew from 66.9 per cent to an estimated 68.0 per cent. This compares to levels ranging between 63 per cent and 65 per cent in the years 2006 to 2008. European films produced in Europe with incoming US investment increased their market share from 4.0 per cent to 5.4 per cent thanks to the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Robin Hood. Led by local hit Les petits mouchoirs French films once more attracted the largest number of admissions out of all European films. Backed by strong results in their home market, Italian films ranked second, taking 4.1 per cent, followed by German productions which – thanks to Resident Evil: Afterlife – accounted for 3.1 per cent of total admissions in the EU.
2010 saw EU production levels continue to grow to a new record in 2010, though at a slower pace compared to previous years. Based on the provisional data available, the Observatory estimates that a total of 1 203 theatrical feature films, including feature documentaries, were produced within the EU member states, 19 films more than 2009. Production growth would have been more pronounced, but for a significant drop in German fiction productions which fell from 129 to 84 films. As a consequence overall EU growth was driven by an increase in feature documentaries (+32 films) while the number of fiction films decreased (-19), raising the share of feature documentaries to 28 per cent, while fiction films accounted for 72 per cent of total production volume in 2010. With 203 feature films receiving official recognition in 2010 France reached a historic record high and became again the country with the highest production output in Europe, followed by Spain with 186 films produced.
3D blockbuster Avatar topped last year’s European charts, selling an estimated 43 million tickets in 2010.