Avatar The Way Of Water

Source: Disney

‘Avatar: The Way Of Water’

Premium ticket pricing is saving the day for cinema exhibition in many European markets, where admissions have yet to catch up with pre-pandemic averages — that was the key message of the latest European box office and admissions data presented on Monday at CineEurope by Lucy Jones, Comscore Movies executive director for UK & Ireland, Italy, Middle East and Africa.

The box office for January-May 2023 shows a very mixed pattern of recovery across Europe, with Austria up 8% on the 2017-2019 pre-pandemic average for the same period, Netherlands up 4% and Germany down a slim 3%. France is down a relatively slender 10%, while Spain is down 26%. UK/Ireland is down 29%, and Italy is down 32% on the pre-pandemic average for the five-month period.

In all these territories, admissions are lagging behind box office, meaning that average ticket prices are higher. Jones suggested that this is being driven by audiences choosing premium large formats and VIP experiences —“They’re always the first kind of seats to sell out.”

In Austria, which showed the best performance on box office compared to recent pre-pandemic years, with an 8% rise, January-May admissions were down 10% on the 2017-2019 average. Netherlands admissions were down 15%, and Germany down 16%.

In those same markets, the average price for purchased tickets showed significant growth: in Germany, for example, up from €8.68 for 2017-2019 to €10.09, a rise of 16%. In Austria, the price rise was even bigger: up from €8.78 to €10.74, an increase of 22%.

UK figures

Jones drilled down into UK audience data based on PostTrak exit polling — which showed that the films released so far this year have not attracted significant numbers of customers aged 55-plus. For the period 2018-2020, Red Joan, starring Judi Dench, showed the strongest skew to that older audience cohort, with 33% aged 55-plus. Blinded By The Light, Military Wives, Downton Abbey, Fisherman’s Friends and Judy all saw audiences with at least 27% aged 55-plus. In 2022, The Duke and Mrs Harris Goes To Paris respectively achieved 26% and 25% of audience from the 55-plus age bracket, with Belfast at 21%, Downton Abbey: A New Era at 20% and Living at 19%.

For the first quarter of 2023, no film that was exit polled by PostTrak achieved those kind of numbers. Sam Mendes’ Empire Of Light saw the highest proportion of customers aged 55-plus, with 12%, followed by Tom Hanks starrer A Man Called Otto with 11%. Perhaps surprisingly, Till, The Fabelmans, The Whale and TAR all saw audiences with only 5-8% in the 55-plus age range, suggesting that the latest awards season titles did not entice the older UK audience to the cinema this year.

For the full year 2023, latest forecast from Gower Street showed that EMEA box office revenue is forecast to reach $8.25bn, which compares with $7.0bn in 2022, and $10.3bn in pre-pandemic 2019.

Omitting Russia from consideration, EMEA box office is forecast to reach $7.91bn in 2023, which compares with $9.45bn in 2019 — a shortfall of 16%.

CineEurope is the official convention of the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC) and runs June 19-22 in Barcelona.