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American films reaching new dominance in Europe

European films accounted for more than a quarter of tickets sold (26.4%) in 2023, while the market share of American titles achieved a new high of 70.1%. Film production in Europe reached 2 347 titles, second-highest figure after 2019. Barbie, The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Oppenheimer attracted most viewers. Astérix & Obélix: L’Empire du Milieu was the most successful European film of the year, European Audiovisual Observatory’s annual report on film  trends shows. The observatory is a part of the Council of Europe.

The business has not recovered from the lockdown during the pandemic. Gross box office in wider Europe (45 Council of Europe member states) grew by 22.3% in 2023 compared with 2022, from EUR 5.5 billion to EUR 6.7 billion, down by 12% on pre-pandemic levels. 

“American films achieved an important market share in terms of admissions, exceeding the 70% milestone for the first time in recent years and marking a notable 7.4 percentage point increase from 2022.” 

“This remarkable performance by American titles came at the expense of European films and incoming European productions, which experienced respective declines of 3.9 and 3.3 percentage points”, the observatory reports. 

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Consequently, European films’ market share sank to 26.4%, reaching its lowest point in recent history and dropping by 2.4 percentage points compared to pre-pandemic averages. 

“European incoming productions also hit a new low with a mere 0.9% market share, attributed to the absence of successful Studio-backed European releases in 2023, such as those seen in previous years from popular franchises like Harry Potter and James Bond.”

“In the first year unaffected by restrictions related to the now four-year-old global pandemic, cinema attendance in wider Europe (Council of Europe member states except for Azerbaijan) grew by 18.3%, reaching over 861 million tickets sold, 133 million more than in 2022. These satisfactory results represent a recovery rate of 77.3% in relation to the average admission levels achieved between 2017 and 2019 of 1.1 billion tickets sold.”

 Out of the 13 796 feature films screened in cinemas across Europe in 2023, 14 titles exceeded 10 million tickets sold, while 113 (including 39 European productions) achieved over 1 million admissions.

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“Unsurprisingly, American studio feature films maintained their dominance in the 2023 European theatrical market, once again monopolizing the entire year-end top 20”, the observatory says.

Four standout titles attracted significant attention, each surpassing 30 million admissions: Barbie, selling 49.3 million tickets, followed by The Super Mario Bros. Movie (36.1 million admissions), Oppenheimer (35.1 million admissions), and Avatar: The Way of Water (34.4 million admissions in 2023 alone, accumulating to 69.2 million since its late 2022 release).

The most watched European title of the year was the French production Astérix & Obélix: L’Empire du Milieu, with 6.4 million admissions and the 25th spot in the year-end chart.

C’è ancora domani, an Italian black and white feature set in post-war Rome, ranked as the second European film in terms of admissions, selling close to 4.9 million tickets across two markets: Italy and Italian-speaking Switzerland.

Rounding up the top 5 European were the French comedy sequel 2 (4.5 million admissions), the Spanish animation film Mummies (4.5 million admissions), and the French epic Les trois mousquetaires: D’Artagnan (4.0 million admissions).

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Regarding the diversity of offerings, European films maintained a dominant position, constituting over 66% of the total titles available in European cinemas throughout 2023. Meanwhile, American films comprised 19.7% of the offering, with productions from the rest of the world making up 13.2% of the available content.

National market shares within European countries grew in 17 out of the 34 markets with available data.

“Despite retaining its position as the country with the highest national market share at 44.0%, Türkiye saw a decline of 6.8 percentage points compared to 2022. The United Kingdom ranked second with a market share of 40.8%, including Studio-backed incoming productions like Barbie and Oppenheimer. France followed, holding a national market share of 40.0%, while Albania’s market share stood at 31.2%” , the observatory reports.

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