European cinema seems to be affected by a long Covid. More than two years after the start of the pandemic, the number of admissions to cinemas on the Old Continent remains far below what it was in 2019 before the outbreak of the virus.
The International Union of Cinemas (Unic), which brings together operators from thirty-nine countries on the European continent (including Russia and Turkey) presented its annual report on Tuesday 21 June. In this document rich in statistics, Unic notes that the European box office is still suffering. In 2021, the turnover of European cinema increased by 42% compared to 2020 to reach 3.7 billion euros, but remains down 70% compared to 2019. For the year 2022, Unic expects a forecast increase of 62% of the box -office compared to 2021.
How does Unic explain Europeans’ lack of interest in cinema in 2021? First, by the long-term closure of theaters last year. In Unic member countries, cinemas were closed on average for 100 days due to health restrictions. France was particularly affected with 138 days of closure. This mechanically led to a sharp drop in the number of cinema admissions compared to 2019.
While between 2010 and 2019, Unic recorded between 1.1 and 1.3 billion admissions to cinemas per year, this figure fell to 432 million in 2020 then 598 million admissions in 2021. “European industry was on a steady growth trajectory when this momentum was broken by the Covid pandemic”notes the Unic in its report.
Small cocorico, France remains, by far, the first country in terms of entries. In 2021, French cinemas recorded 95.5 million visits.
On the sidelines of Covid-19, Unic is concerned about competition from streaming platforms which are attracting more and more subscribers and exclusively releasing films which no longer follow the traditional calendar with a theatrical release then on video on demand six months or a year later.
“The last two years have proven beyond doubt the resilience of the cinema model, whereby theaters benefit from a period of exclusivity for each film before it is available in other formats”notes Unic, who is concerned about the inherent dangers “to the models of anticipated exits at home”. It is therefore the streaming platforms that are targeted and the Unic affirms that all industry players will remain mobilized to ensure the survival of local cinemas, “whatever their size and location”.