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Does European identity affect the market for European film?

Some EU countries watch more imported European content than others. Huw D Jones examines how European identity affects the market for European film.

European cinema-goers generally prefer Hollywood movies or national productions than films from other European countries.

Non-national European (NNE) films, for example, account for only about 10% of total EU cinema admissions.

NNE Market Share

Figure 1: Average Market Share for NNE Films (%) 2005-2011 (Source: MEDIA Salles 2012)

However, the market share for NNE films varies greatly from country to country (figure 1), from 25.3% in Luxembourg, to just 1.7% in the UK.

Such variations are primarily attributed to economic factors. Countries with a high GDP often have a strong market for national films (since they can afford to invest in their own productions), and so have less reliance on foreign imports.

Cultural factors can also play a part, too. Studies have found, for instance, that audiences are generally more receptive to films from countries with which they share a common language or culture.

Yet no research has yet focused on how European identity affects film preferences. In other words, are countries with a strong attachment to Europe more likely to watch NNE films than those with a weak European identity?

To answer this question, I examined the relationship between NNE market share and European identity within 26 EU member states (plus Turkey) using regression analysis.

The market share data came from MEDIA Salles (2005-11), while data on the strength of European identity came from Eurobarometer, the EU’s bi-annual public opinion survey.

Results

In general, there does appear to be a link between NNE market share and European identity.

Countries with a strong sense of European identity (e.g. Luxembourg, Poland, Finland, Belgium) tend to watch more films from other European countries than those with a weak European identity (e.g. Turkey and the UK).

However, the results can vary depending on how the question about European identity is phrased (figure 2).

If asked, ‘Do you think of yourself as not only (nationality), but also European?’, then the relationship between European identity and NNE market is very significant indeed (p=0.000).

Equally, there is a highly significant relationship (p=0.005) between NNE market share and those who think they will see themselves as European in the near future.

However, if the question is, ‘To what extent to you personally feel European?’, then the relationship is much less significant (p=0.013), while if people are asked, ‘How important is being European to you personally’, then there is no significant relationship at all (p=0.120).

Figure 2: Scatterplots of the relationship between NNE Market Share and European Identity. (Sources: MEDIA Salles/Eurobarometer)

Some countries are fairly consistent in how they respond to these questions, but others vary from survey to survey. Greece, for example, came second in response to the 2005-06 question, ‘Do you think of yourself as (nationality) but also European?’, but during the same period ranked 20th out of 27 in answer to the question, ‘How attached do you feel to Europe?’

This underlines how fragile and volatile the concept of European identity can be: it means different things to different people in different contexts.

Nevertheless, amongst those countries which have formed a fairly consistent view on Europe, there is certainly a significant link between European identity and NNE market share, even when asked how important being European is to them personally.

That is not to say that audiences are necessarily drawn to films from other European countries purely out of European loyalty.

At best, European identity only accounts for just under half the variance in NNE market share (r2=0.438), meaning that they are still other factors involved.

It is also quite possible that the relationship between European identity and NNE market share is not all one way: consuming high levels of NNE films might help to strengthen European identity.

But at the very least, a country’s level of European identity provides a good indicator of its interest in films from other European countries.

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