According to estimates published Tuesday by industry trade organization the International Union of Theaters (UNIC), the coronavirus epidemic cost European cinemas $20 billion. Enforced theater closures and COVID-19 restrictions, including capacity limits and masking requirements, resulted in total revenue losses of “at least” €19 billion ($20 billion) across the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom, according to the UNIC’s annual report, released Tuesday at the start of the CineEurope exhibitors conference, which runs June 20-23 in Barcelona, Spain.
After reaching an all-time high of $9.3 billion (€8.8 billion) in 2019, theatrical box office in Europe plummeted in 2020, falling to $2.8 billion (€2.62 billion). Last year witnessed a sort of comeback, with box office in the EU and the United Kingdom rising 42 percent year on year to $3.9 billion (€3.7 billion), but that figure is still 70 percent lower than pre-pandemic 2019.
One of the issues might be a lack of substance. While there were 480 new titles released on average across Europe in 2019, the number decreased to 250 in 2020 and barely increased to 270 last year, according to the UNIC. Just under half of those, 95, were American titles, which accounted for the majority of ticket purchases. Only five films sold 98 million tickets in the region: No Time to Die, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Dune, F9, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, accounting for almost one-sixth of the total 589 million admissions registered by the UNIC for the year. In comparison, 432 million tickets were sold in 2020, while 1.347 billion were sold in 2019.
The UNIC is optimistic about the cinema industry’s prospects, predicting a greater rebound in the second half of last year when COVID limitations are lifted and Hollywood companies ratchet up their release plans. They referenced a recent Gower Street Analytics prediction that predicts European box office would reach $8.1 billion this year, a 62 percent increase over 2021 and within shouting distance of pre-pandemic records.