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At the 66th Berlin International Film Festival the European Audiovisual Observatory releases its first estimates for European cinema attendance in 2015. The Observatory estimates that total admissions in the European Union increased by 7.6 per cent to 980 million tickets sold, 69 million more than in 2014. This is the second highest level registered in the EU in the past ten years. Only in 2009 did cinemas in the EU sell more tickets boosted by Avatar and the novelty factor of 3D. Including non-EU territories 2015 actually saw the highest admission levels since 2004 with estimated record admissions of over 1.2 billion tickets.
While admissions levels generally increase in some markets and decrease in others it is remarkable to note that in 2015 25 out of the 26 EU territories for which provisional data were available, registered an increase in cinema attendance. This represents the most homogenous growth trend across territories observed in at least the past ten years. Indeed, France was the only EU market to register declining admissions compared to strong 2014 results.
Geographically speaking the growth in EU cinema attendance was primarily driven by the strong year-on-year performance of Germany (+17.5 million, +14.4 per cent) and UK (+14.4 million, +9.2 per cent) followed by Italy (+8.7 million, +8.9 per cent), Spain (+7.1 million, +8.2 per cent) and Poland (+4.2 million, +10.5 per cent). For Poland 2015 marks the best result recorded in Polish movie theatres in the last 25 years, whilst cinema attendance in Spain despite the growing for the second year in a row remains the third-lowest since 1994.
Outside of the EU, the Russian Federation market remained stable year-on-year with 175.7 million admissions in 2015, maintaining its position as the second largest European market in terms of admissions. Turkey, the sixth largest European cinema market, saw its impressive growth trend of recent years come to a temporary halt with admissions declining by 1.5 per cent to 60.5 million tickets sold.
Although it is too early to analyse the admissions by origin, it seems that admissions growth in Europe was primarily driven by the strong performance of a number of US blockbusters such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Minions, Jurassic World, Fifty Shades of Grey or Furious 7. Compared to 2014, national market shares increased in 10 and declined in 14 EU markets for which 2015 data was available. Boosted by the success of UK qualifying films such as Star Wars or Spectre (GB inc. / US) UK films captured a record market share of 44.5 per cent making the UK the EU market with the highest national market share in 2015.
UK independent films as defined by the BFI (i.e. excluding inward investment films with US studio backing) accounted for 10.6 per cent, the third highest level in the past 15 years. National market share of French films dropped to 35.2 per cent in 2015, compared to an exceptional level of 44.5 per cent in 2014. Apart from the UK and France national films showed a strong performance in Denmark (29.7 per cent; top national film: Klovn Forever), Finland (29.0 per cent; Luokkakokous) and Germany (27.5 per cent; Fack Ju Göhte 2) as Turkey remained the leading European country in terms of national market share with Turkish films taking a record share of 56.8 per cent of total admissions in 2015, a level unparalleled in any other European market in the past few decades.