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EU Survey Finds Low Interest in European Film

A landmark report on Current and Future Audiovisual Audiences provides the most comprehensive picture yet of European film habits and preferences, yet raises questions about the circulation of European films, reports Huw D Jones.

Only 14% of Europeans regularly watch films from other European countries, according to a new EU report on audience behaviour. US movies are routinely watched by 58% of Europeans, domestic productions by 20%, and features from the rest of the world by only 5%.

Of the 10 EU countries surveyed, Poland had the highest proportion of European film fans (31% regularly watch films from other European countries), followed by Lithuania (25%) and Romania (22%), while Croatia (3%), Britain (5%) and France (7%) had the lowest share.

cinema

Image: Sailko. CC-PD-Mark, Cinemas in Florence, GFDL

The report, based on a survey of almost 5,000 people aged 4-50, confirms Europe’s love of Hollywood movies, yet suggests the market share for other types of film might be slightly higher than cinema admissions alone indicate. As we previously reported, 64% of cinema tickets sold in the EU each year are for US movies, 24% for domestic productions, 10% for other European films, and 2% for other international features.

It will perhaps come as no surprise to see Poland, a country where European films account for 17.4% of cinema admissions, has the most Europhile film audience, while Britain, where such films have only a 1.7% market share, has one of the least.

At the same time, Romania’s high proportion of European film viewers seems at odds with how such films typically perform in the box office: only about 6.5% of the country’s cinema admissions are for European films, suggesting that Romanians are turning towards other platforms to catch such films, probably due to the lack of suitable cinemas (37% of Romanians have no theatre within 30 minutes of their home and the country has only eight art house cinemas).

The 856-page report identifies five film audience-profiles:

It also provides the clearest picture yet of those who regularly watch European films – the so-called ‘Europhiles’. These tend to be young, educated women with lower income but higher education (many are students) often living in medium-sized cities with easy access to theatres. They regard European films as more interesting and less stereotypical than big US productions, and tend to watch more serious dramas and comedies and fewer movies with strong special effects than average audiences. Most often they are ‘movie addicts’ or ‘movie selectives’ and to a lesser extent ‘hit grazers’.

Another aspect of the report examined people’s awareness of recent pan-European film releases. The French hit comedy-drama Intouchables performed best (75% had heard of it / 38% had seen it / 36% liked it), followed by Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (76% / 34% / 28%) and Taken 2 (64% / 25% / 22%). Intouchables was also the film most commonly cited by respondents asked to spontaneously name three recent European films they have enjoyed, followed by Amour and Skyfall.

The report suggests that European films which have already achieved domestic success and have a budget over €7m travel best. Animations, family and adventures films also find it easier to cross-borders than more culturally-specific genres like comedies. Overall, though, awareness of European films is much lower (about 45%) than big budget US movies (85%) or domestic productions (65%).

Amongst those who had seen a recent European title, satisfaction levels were generally high – 80% said they liked the movie they saw. 77% praised European films for their ‘diverse and complex characters’ and 73% thought such films were ‘original and-provoking’, yet many thought such films were not sufficiently available in their local area (63%). Asked to give a spontaneous reason for liking European films, most referred to their originality and quality of content, while the use of a foreign language was cited as a common dislike along with ‘boring’ stories and ‘poor quality’ productions.

While the report focuses primarily on audience behaviour, some suggestions on how the circulation of European films could be improved are nevertheless advanced. Proposals include the creation of a pan-European Video-on-Demand (VoD) platform, better multi-territory distribution right, increased support for subtitles, and free trial periods to make legal downloading and streaming more attractive.

More targeted marketing strategies are also called for. For instance, for ‘movie addicts’ it is argued the online availability of European titles should be strengthened. Where ‘movie selectives’ are concerned, the report calls for the creation of an online database with detailed information about European films and trailers.

Whether these proposals will work remains to be seen. But with the recent launch of EU’s €1.46 billion Creative Europe programme (2014-2020), part of whose aim is to support the distribution of 1,000 European films over the next seven year, it is certainly a timely opportunity to consider such matters.

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