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box office sales across Europe hit an all-time high last year, jumping 12% to 6.27 billion euros ($8 billion) with big Hollywood crowdpleasers and premium-priced 3D tickets swelling studios' coffers across the continent. Admissions -- the number of tickets sold -- were also up 6% to 981 million sold.
Europe's biggest territories saw some of the strongest growth. Germany enjoyed a 13% admissions surge, France boosted ticket sales by 5.7%, the U.K. jumped 5.6%.
But figures released Thursday from the European Audiovisual Observatory show growth across the board. Box office revenue increased in 21 of 23 European Union countries last year -- with recession-hit Ireland and tiny Latvia the only exceptions.
The numbers, however, also show an increasing polarization on the European theatrical market. The top 100 films accounted for 75% of total admissions last year, up from 69% in 2008. And the number of blockbusters -- titles selling 5 million tickets or more in Europe -- increased to 42 from 34 a year earlier.
With few exceptions, those tend to be made in the U.S. Hollywood titles accounted for 67% of European ticket sales, the highest level since 2003. Leading the way was "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs," the top film in Europe last year, with more than 40 million admissions.
Although Europe's subsidy system continues to churn out features -- 1,168 full-length fiction and documentaries last year -- European films' share of ticket sales slipped 1.5 percentage points to 26.7%.
Regional exceptions were Germany, where local films accounted for 27.4% of overall sales and Sweden, which, thanks to its home-grown "Millennium" franchise, saw local market share jump to 32.7% last year.
When it comes to pan-European success, French films still dominate, accounting for 8.7% of overall ticket sales across the EU. They were followed by German (4.1%) and British titles (3.9%).