From Intouchables to The Impossible, a host of local productions lit up the European box office in 2012. Ian Sandwell analyses the successes.

While European audiences were in the mood for a laugh in 2011 - comedies from The Inbetweeners Movie to Nothing To Declare and Kokowaah ruled their local roosts - 2012’s European breakouts were altogether more sombre affairs.

JA Bayona’s tsunami drama The Impossible was the biggest film of the year in Spain, Russian audiences warmed to drama Soulless and audiences everywhere couldn’t get enough of moody blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises, a UK-US co-production.

By October, however, no single European film had managed to match the $424.8m might of the final Harry Potter film across the continent in 2011.

That was until the arrival of James Bond in his 23rd mission, Skyfall, in late October. It rocketed up the charts, breaking numerous records along the way and taking a mighty $459.9m up to Dec 13.

Yet alongside this and the expected success of The Dark Knight Rises, one of 2011’s top titles continued to dominate the local charts in 2012. More than living up to its name, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache’s French title Intouchables took $185.1m across Europe in 2012 to add to its 2011 haul of $152m.

As of Dec 13 in Germany the comedy topped the yearly chart ahead of both local hits (Turkish For Beginners) and UK-US big hitters (The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus) with a total of $82.9m; the result of spending an astonishing 50 weeks in the top 50 in the territory, 35 of those in the top 20.

It was a familiar picture across Europe. In Spain, Intouchables was the fourth-biggest hit of the year with $21.6m, having spent 22 weeks in the top 20; while in Netherlands it notched up more than 1m admissions following its March release.

Its success in Europe has contributed to Intouchables becoming the most-viewed French-language film in history outside of France, a record it achieved in September.

Co-productions’ field day

UK-US co-productions dominate the year’s top 10, with five titles in the mix. Among these is Warner Bros’ The Dark Knight Rises, the conclusion of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with $290.7m, second only to Sony and MGM’s Skyfall. Directed by Sam Mendes, Skyfall had taken a massive $459.9m up to Dec 13 including, among other records, becoming the biggest film of all time in the UK.

The territory also enjoyed its own independent successes earlier in the year, both at home and in Europe. Hammer Films’ The Woman In Black scared up $54.8m, which was the biggest haul for a UK horror film of the past 20 years, while Fox Searchlight’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel blossomed by appealing to an under-served older audience and took $54m across Europe.

Local efforts in Germany have not fared as well, however. Bora Dagtekin’s Turkish For Beginners, based on the popular TV comedy-drama series, was the year’s most successful homegrown effort as of Dec 13. Chalking up $24.8m, it is the only solely German production in the overall European top 30.

Italy’s film industry enjoyed a good start to the year with Luca Miniero’s comedy sequel Benvenuti Al Nord taking $36.1m following a January release.

The latest Woody Allen outing To Rome With Love - a US-Italy co-production - took almost $13.3m in Italy before rolling out across Europe and amassing $40.9m to date. That was about as good as it got for Italy, however, where combined annual box office looks set to be down on the previous year for the third consecutive time.

By contrast, Spain had to wait until the second half of 2012 for its local success stories. First up was Enrique Gato’s 3D animation Tad, The Lost Explorer, taking $24.2m by mid December. Then, topping the yearly chart almost instantly, The Impossible - released on Oct 11 locally through Warner Bros - has since gone on to become the second-biggest hit of all time at the Spanish box office, behind only Avatar. Overall, it had taken $57.2m by the middle of December.

Historical action-adventure Conquest 1453 topped the yearly chart in Turkey with $34.9m, ahead of local comedies Berlin Kaplani and Sen Kimsin, as well as Ice Age: Continental Drift. In Russia, Roman Prygunov’s Soulless went to the top of the yearly local chart following its October release, with $13.4m.

A popular expedition

In Norway, Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg’s historical action-adventure Kon-Tiki - Norway’s foreign-language Oscar submission - attracted a record 164,191 admissions on its opening weekend, taking $14.3m across Europe by mid-December. It was picked up by The Weinstein Company for North America, the UK and Italy.

For every pattern there are exceptions: 2012’s come from France, where local comedies continued to perform well, both at home and in Belgium and Switzerland. Leading the pack was Wild Bunch’s Astérix And Obélix: God Save Britannia 3D, which as of Dec 13 had taken almost $55.1m. Alain Chabat’s Houba! On The Trail Of The Marsupilami notched $48.2m, including 5.2m admissions in France, while La Vérité Si Je Mens! 3 ($39.6m) and Le Prénom ($33.5m) also did well.