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Europe enjoys box office bonanza in 2009

May 7, 2010

If piracy is Ssupposedly so rampant in Europe and Asia then why did 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%).

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