While Sex And The City and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull battle it out with local super-hits for European box-office supremacy, the words 'recession', 'credit crunch' and 'weak dollar' are worrying the region's distributors and exhibitors.
But in France, Germany and Russia (now recognised by international distributors as a top 10 market) these fears so far appear unfounded. This is due to the phenomenal success of home-grown titles, Welcome To The Sticks, Rabbit Without Ears and Irony Of Fate 2, respectively. In Germany, total admissions are up 13.7% for the first five months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, while in France they are up 11.5%, and in Russia they have hit 46.3 million admissions.
The market share for local films has also increased in each of these territories, year-on-year.
However, the UK, Italy and Spain have seen a fall in total cinema-goers. In the UK, the number of tickets sold in the first four months of 2008 fell 3.2%, from 50m in the first quarter of 2007 to 48m this year (this was before the releases of Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Sex And The City).
The performance of local titles has also played a part in this small decline. The UK has not benefited from home-grown blockbuster comedies such as Hot Fuzz (which took $41.2m in the UK) and Mr Bean's Holiday ($44m in the territory) which gave the market a boost in the first five months of 2007. Instead, this year has seen smaller independent titles break through on a smaller scale, such as Son Of Rambow ($8.3m and counting) and Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky ($3m to date).
In Spain, although admissions are down 11.1% on the first five months of 2007, local films in 2008 are up 5% on their share of the box office compared to the same period in 2007. This is due largely to Juan Antonio Bayona's The Orphanage, Alex de la Iglesia's English-language The Oxford Murders and the latest in the family comedy franchise, Mortadelo And Filemon: Mission - Save The Planet. In Italy, thanks to Carlo Verdone's Grande, Grosso E Verdone and Federico Moccia's Scusa Ma Ti Chiamo Amore, local films dropped off just 1% although total admissions have fallen by 6.4%.
This summer sees two big sporting events, the European football championships (June 7-29) and the Beijing Olympics (August 8-24), competing for cinema-goers' attention. In response, the US studios are rolling out a heavyweight slate of franchise films. In addition to Paramount Pictures' Indiana Jones, there is Universal Pictures' The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, Walt Disney Smpi's The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Warner Bros' The Dark Knight, Universal's Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Fox's The X-Files: I Want To Believe and Universal and Marvel's The Incredible Hulk. The year will also see Sony Pictures' Quantum Of Solace (October 31) and Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (November 21).