European movie market report: insights from project’s research work

EUMEPLAT project has issued a new report focused on European patterns in the movie market (D1.3). The report shows the research conducted by the Work Package 1 “Europeanisation: Lessons from Media History” in analyzing major trends of film production, exhibition and circulation in Europe of the last 30 years.

Prof. Daniel Biltereyst and Prof. Eduard Cuelenaere from the Center for Cinema and Media Studies (CIMS), Ghent University, Belgium, with the contribution of Prof. Andrea Miconi from IULM University, Italy, have brought together datasets from different sources in order to investigate some of the major longitudinal trends (1990-2020) in the European film production, distribution and exhibition scene.

Here are some excerpts from the conclusion.

The art of cinema is more than ever alive

This report aimed at exploring longitudinal trends on some basic categories of the European movie industry and market. We explicitly focused on the theatrical cinema model in the sense of an industry aiming at an experience of consuming movies in film venues. (…) We decided not to deal with the variety of other options of consuming the same products or artistic-cultural artifacts (movies) today—a variety of other options in terms of the technologies and devices used to see them, or the spatial environment where and how people watch those movies. Research on film audiences, like the one for the European Commission (2014), underlines how lively consuming movies is today and how frequently people watch films in multiscreen environments—in cinemas, in festival sites, via streaming services, on linear and other television, on laptops and other (very) small screens. Therefore, though our data show that the traditional cinema model might be under pressure, the practice of telling and consuming stories through the art of cinema is more than ever alive.

Theatrical cinema model not dead

This report did not deal with the many other practices of cinema consumption today and focused on the traditional theatrical cinema model. One overall conclusion is that this model is definitely not dead. On the contrary, one might even claim that, as this report also brought forward, there are several arguments indicating how vibrant the European and worldwide cinema is in terms of the still growing film production market; the stabilizing and in some territories expanding film exhibition market; the appearance of territories like Russia, Poland or Turkey where all indicators underline a growing film production and exhibition market; and so on.

Continuing questions on the survival of the theatrical cinema model

Although there were positive trends pointing towards the survival and (in some territories even) expansion of the film exhibition sector, there are clear signs that the traditional exhibition market is strongly under pressure. This is visible in the overall stabilizing admission figures, while in some markets, admissions and box office results showed a clear downward trend if we look at it from a longitudinal perspective (for instance Spain and Germany). In some European territories, the cinema industry’s GBO is clearly not following the general economic trends. Among stakeholders in the European film industry there is the general concern that filmgoers are gradually losing the habit of (physically) going to the pictures. This concern refers to the increasing numbers of audiences preferring to engage with movies through streaming and other digital platforms. These concerns only became stronger during the pandemic when people massively discovered the advantages of consuming movies via these platforms.

Strong growth of European productions, but weakness in crossing (inter)national borders

Figures on the European film production volume might be misleading: in the reference period, we saw a great increase in released European film productions. Although this is surely a strong sign of its economic and artistic vividness, several questions need to be raised. One is about the role played by film policies—regional, national and supranational—and about funding. (…) This is quite different from the USA, where we saw that there was a stabilizing feature film production volume since 2005, but also how Hollywood continues to dominate the European exhibition market. One of the key problems of European cinema remains (like it was in the beginning of the reference period of this report) that notwithstanding a growing production, European movies perform badly in other non-national European markets and they are seldomly exported beyond European borders.

Dependency on US blockbusters

The dominance of Hollywood movies is often seen in terms of a threat or as a conflict between US and European film production. For other parts of the European film industries and their stakeholders (e.g. audiences), Hollywood movies play a different role. This is most clearly visible in the exhibition sector where admission figures and GBO results are quite volatile and very much dependent on the supply of a series of highly successful movies. In its most recent Focus on world film market trends, the EAO argued that “the surge in EU admissions was almost entirely driven by the comparatively strong performance of US blockbusters as admissions to European films and European films produced in Europe with incoming US investment (EUR inc) actually declined.” The fact that market shares for US films continue to be (very) high (particularly in small production countries) is certainly a problem for European cinema industries and for EU film/media/cultural policies. This does not directly imply that this is also necessarily a threat to the European cinema exhibition scene and to the traditional theatrical cinema model.

Download the Deliverable 1.3 “Patterns in Movie Production, Distribution and Consumption”