Overall cinema admissions in Europe grew by 36 million or 4.4% last year. That contrasts with the trend in the US last year where admissions fell by 3%.

But the market share achieved by European-made films dropped from 29.2% to 22.5%, a thumping fall of 46 million from 236 million to 190 million.

The figures, assembled by the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO), show total audiences in the European Union (EU) back at the levels of the early 1980s and higher than 1998, when the runaway success of Titanic distorted the figures. Of the 15 EU countries, only Denmark bucked the EU-wide upswing by registering a 2% drop. Ireland register growth of 19.5%, the Netherlands 16.1%, France 8% and Sweden 6.3%.

The EAO says that the market share decline was explained by poor performances by films outside their national markets and less-successful circulation outside home territories. Compared with 1999, when European films averaged 40% of their admissions outside their home territories, last year saw that figure down to 26%. European films clocked up 84 million admissions outside their home markets in 1999, but just 40 million last year. Only Chicken Run and Billy Elliot were genuinely pan-continental successes, while Dancer In The Dark is forecast to achieve the same 2.8 million EU admissions total as Breaking The Waves.

Moreover, European films scored only 51 million admissions in the US, the worst result since 1996 and nearly 30% less than 1999. European market share in the US dropped from 6.2% to 3.9%.