Screen Daily's analysis of international box office results for the first half of 2001 reveals that all major European territories are enjoying an unexpectedly robust year so far. Even more encouraging is the revelation that, in almost all markets surveyed, it has been local films that have fuelled the upward trend.
For the past 18 months, both international distributors and exhibitors have been bemoaning the lack of quality indigenous product across Europe. Without a solid domestic market, both the major studio releases and the new US-style multiplexes have been struggling to maintain audiences in developing and mature markets alike.
So, while US titles have frequently dominated the charts and contributed substantial revenues across multiple territories, notably early in the year (Cast Away, Hannibal and What Women Want), and at the start of the summer season (The Mummy Returns, Pearl Harbor, Shrek and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), most countries have also provided their own box office hits to sustain the market in between.
Germany's half-year box office increase of 11% against 2000, was as much to do with the performance of local hits: Das Experiment and Girls On Top (Madchen, Madchen), as it was of The Mummy Returns or Pearl Harbor.
2001 saw Germany's first six months gross figures, provided by industry data collection agency AC Nielsen/EDI, reach $356.6m (DM 825.9m) compared with $321.8m (DM 745.2m) in 2000. Helped by local successes the box office performance so far puts the country well on its way to beating last year's total gross of $655.3m (DM 1.5bn).
In France, the year-on-year rise of 10% - to 97 million admissions, (according to provisional figures released by the National Cinema Center), is credited to the exceptional performance of four French productions that have all sold over five million tickets and contributed to local films' 51% share of the market, up from 34% last year. This quadruplet consisted of three early starters: The Closet (Le Placard), which opened January 17, The Brotherhood Of The Wolf (Le Pacte Des Loups) on January 31, and La Verite Si Je Mens 2 (Feb 7). In addition, current French box office phenomenon Amelie From Montmartre (Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain) has alone accumulated 6.3 million admissions to date.
Italy also saw an 11% rise from 2000's $178.8m (Lire 410.1bn) to $198.3m (Lire 454.6bn) for the current year according to local box office tracker Cinetel. The biggest local hit of the year has been The Last Kiss (L'Ultimo Bacio) which after 23 weeks on release still haunts the chart having taken $10.5m to date. Also contributing to the strong year were recent hits Italian-French co-production The Ignorant Fairies and Nanni Moretti's Cannes Palme d'Or winner The Son's Room (La Stanza Del Figlio).
In Spain, where a massive 15% increase for the first half year has been recorded - $209.2m (PTS 412.0m) compared with $182.2m (PTS 358.9m) in 2000, according to AC Nielsen/EDI, the outstanding local performance was by Lolafilms' Torrente 2: Mission In Marbella which grossed over $18.5m (PTS 3.6bn) and is by far the biggest local smash of all time. The film ranks as the fourth biggest ever hit in the territory, behind Titanic, The Sixth Sense and Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace.
Recently revised figures from AC Nielsen/EDI for the UK, also, reveal a year-on-year increase, though smaller than many of its European neighbours. Total revenues for the first half of the year were up 3% to $453.7m (£322.6m) compared with 2000's first six months results of $441.4m (£313.8m). The UK box office has been given a tremendous boost since mid-April by the unstoppable juggernaut that is Bridget Jones's Diary, currently at $56.4m (£40.1m) and still in the top five after 13 weeks on release.
Rising six month grosses were evident in The Netherlands as well. Figures provided by the Dutch Federation for Cinematography (NFC) show an 11% year-on-year rise from 2000's $157.2m (FL 410.1m) to 2001's $174.2m (FL 454.6m). The biggest local hit of the year so far lending its own contribution to the rise was Costa!, a comedy directed by Johan Nijenhuis.
The rest of 2001 looks likely to continue these impressive box office increases with many high-profile releases still to come. Amongst those expecting the best results are: Tim Burton's Planet Of The Apes, Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence and monster sequel Jurassic Park 3, as well as end-of-year heavyweights Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone and The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring.