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Cinema-going in Europe: an increase in admissions in 2006 but not everywhere.

A better year, but not for everyone. Following a 2005 marked by a minus sign almost everywhere, the year that has just ended has represented a breath of fresh air for European cinema exhibition in general.

This is what is revealed by MEDIA Salles, anticipating to the Berlin Festival the publication of figures on cinema-going in Europe in 2006, included in the “final 2006” edition of the European Yearbook, which is being presented today, 15 February, during the traditional “Italian Breakfast” at the CineStar Imax in the Sony Center, and which can be downloaded free of charge from the MEDIA Salles website at the address

With regard to 2006, the Yearbook collects figures from 29 European countries, that can be analysed under a variety of different headings: the markets of the European Union and those, in many cases coinciding with the former, of course, of Western Europe on the one hand, Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim on the other.

What emerges from these figures is a 2006 that is generally speaking better than the previous year, but not for everyone. Following a 2005 marked by a minus sign almost everywhere in the world, the year that has just ended has represented a breath of fresh air for European cinema exhibition in general.

In the European Union, the figures already available, which regard 24 countries, register an average increase in spectators of around 3.4%, rising from 877.7 to 907.6 million.

The 17 countries of Western Europe that have made their figures available, reveal an average increase in admissions of around 2.6%. A good sign for the future, though not measuring up to expectations, if we consider that in various countries the first half of the year was characterised by a two-figure increase. But the improvement nevertheless took place – from 843.9 to 865.8 million admissions – and two of the continent’s five big markets were mainly responsible for contributing to this. In first place comes France which, with over 188 million spectators (+8.2% compared to 2005), achieves the second best result since 1984. Next comes Germany which sees an audience growth of 7.4% compared to 2005. However, despite an increase of over 9 million spectators, this market does not succeed in recovering the heavy drop recorded between 2004 and 2005. The total of 136.7 million spectators still remains below the average for the 2000s (over 150 million). Increasing, though only just, is a third large market, Italy, where estimates regarding screens operating at least 60 days a year, speak of an average yearly increment of 1.7%, following an initial six months that had recorded a rise of over 10%. Also marked by a plus sign are smaller markets such as Finland (here estimates speak of +12%), Austria (+10.6%), The Netherlands (+9.1%), Ireland (+8.9%), Belgium (+8.7%), Switzerland (+8.5%), Luxembourg (+8.1%), Norway (+5.5%), Sweden (+4.6%), Denmark (+2.6%) and Greece (+2.4%). Going against the trend is Liechtenstein, which loses 3.8%. Suffering from a considerable drop in audiences are two of the five big countries: the United Kingdom and Spain, which share a decrease of 4.9% compared to 2005. Whilst the former, although losing almost 8 million tickets, obtains a result in line with those of the first few years of the 2000s, Spain, losing about 6 million spectators, drops to 121.4 million admissions, the lowest result since 1998. For the second consecutive year the number of screens in Spain decreases, too, diminishing by over 200 units over a two-year period. From 1990 to 2004 the number of screens had experienced an uninterrupted run of growth.

Central-Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Rim obtain decidedly flattering results, generally speaking, recording admissions increasing by 17.6% in the 12 countries whose results are known. Spectators thus increase from 90.2 to 106.0 million. Here too, however, there is no escape from the general trend, which sees quite different situations in the individual territories. An increase is registered in Slovenia (+10.9%) and in the Czech Republic (+8.7%).

All with above-average growth are both big markets such as Poland (+28.2%), which recovers almost all the spectators lost in 2005, and Turkey (+26.3%), as well as smaller countries such as the Slovak Republic (+55.7%), Estonia (+40.1%) and Latvia (+22.7%).

Instead, decreases are recorded in Serbia and Montenegro (-36.7%) and to a smaller extent in Romania (-4.6%), Hungary (-3.8%), Bulgaria (-2.5%) and Cyprus (-1.1%).

Multiplexes in Europe: little growth, many changes in ownership. In Europe as a whole, complexes with at least 8 screens rose in number, between October 2005 and October 2006, from 1,013 to 1,060, for a total of respectively 10,918 and 11,393 screens (+4.4%).

This is a growth trend that has been going on without a break since the mid-Nineties but which has slowed down lately (the growth rate between 2005 and 2005 was of 7.5%). If many more multiplexes are not opened, the latest trend emerging from an analysis of the situation country by country as shown in the Yearbook, proves extremely dynamic, especially as regards changes in ownership, with companies quitting territories (such as Intercom in Hungary and Romania) and businesses consolidating their presence on the market through takeovers (for example Cinesa in Spain and Mediapro in Romania) or mergers (for example, again in Spain, Abaco and Cinebox).

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