With cinema attendance down in the three leading European territories for the first quarter of 2003 (Screendaily.com April 7) and figures showing that Belgium and Switzerland have followed suit, some of the smaller European territories are defiantly bucking the trend.
Where local product like Chouchou and Good Bye, Lenin! has been unable to keep France and Germany's 2003 admissions ahead of 2002 it is the performance of local productions, along with some Hollywood help, that has seen the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark all improve year-on-year.
Norway has experienced the biggest growth with 2.5m admissions so far in 2003, a 16% rise on last year when 2.1m tickets had been sold at the same stage, and $22.3m (NKR 161.8m) in receipts, 21% up on 2002's $17.6m (NKR 127.9m) for the comparative period.
The ticket sales in the country have been boosted by local successes Olsenbanden Jr and Peder Norlund's Ulvesommer, both distributed by Nordisk Film/Columbia TriStar, which have recorded 322,979 and 144,154 admissions respectively. Also making a major contribution has been Fox Film's Bond title Die Another Day which has sold 474,934 tickets to date in the country.
In Denmark were local successes run rife (Screendaily.com April 9) titles such as Inheritance (Arven) and The Green Butchers (De Gronne Slagtere) have helped the box office to a 4% rise year-on-year. A total of $36.8m (DKR 255.1m) has been recorded so far in 2003 in the territory compared to $35.2m (DKR 244.6m). However due to rising ticket prices, admissions were just 0.4% up year-on-year with 4.28 million sold in 2003 compared to 4.265 million last year.
The Netherlands followed Norway with a healthy jump of 14%. Box office results so far this year have yielded $54.7m (Euros 51.2m) compared to $48.1m (Euros 44.9m) for the same period of 2002.
Once again a local title has helped, with Ben Sombogaart's Twin Sisters (De Tweeling) the third highest earner so far this year with $3.3m (Euros 3m) for distributor RCV - it has taken $4.1m (Euros 3.8m) since release in 2002. Ahead of it are Hollywood blockbusters The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers ($8.1m in 2003, $14.2m since release) and Die Another Day ($7.3m).
Meanwhile Belgium and Switzerland have seen drops in box office receipts in 2003, down approximately 7% and 11% respectively on 2002. With the exception of the first week of the year and two consecutive weeks in early March (when Catch Me If You Can and Maid In Manhattan led) receipts have been down each weekend in Switzerland. Similar results are shown in Belgium with two weeks in March (led by 8 Mile and The Jungle Book 2) representing the only 'up' weeks.
With school holidays just getting underway ahead of next weekend's Easter holiday, which came four weeks earlier last year, distributors and exhibitors will be hoping they can give box office a much needed boost in many territories.