The European film industry "flourished" last year on a number of levels, including an average 9% hike in local market shares for European films, according to new research.

The findings were published by the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) in data that measured feature film output, box office and market share for European films.

According to the EAO, last year saw some 625 films produced, an increase of 5% over 2000's total of 595. Growth was strongest in France (see Screendaily, March 14) with a leap to 204 films from 2000's 171, Germany (83 films, compared with 75), Spain (86 compared with 77), Portugal (11 compared with seven) and Greece (18 compared with 16).

It noted that in the UK there was production stability, but a marked drop in US productions (three compared with 11) and a steep drop in overall Hollywood investment.

The UK saw average budgets continue to outstrip the rest of Europe. The average UK budget climbed from Euros 4.8m to Euros 5.8m, an increase of 21%. Italian budgets rose from Euros 2.1m to Euros 2.9m, while in France, they dropped 6% from Euros 4.68m to Euros 4.36m.

Overall cinema admissions in Europe grew by 9.4% to 920 million in 2001, a level not seen since the early 1980s. Attendance was up in all countries except Finland (-8.5%), which was afflicted by a ticket price increase and a dearth of strong local films. German ticket sales increase 17%, Denmark 12% and France and The Netherlands up 11% each.

But the most dramatic - and encouraging - evidence of growth came in terms of market share. European films enjoyed 31.8% of their local box office shares, compared with 22.8% in 2000.

The EAO says that growth of audiences for local films in their home markets was some 27%, while that of European films in other national markets was estimated at 21%.