Market Watch

Central and Eastern European Box Office Surges on 3D Effect



Three major markets in Central and Eastern Europe have reported large increases at the box office in first half 2010 as the influx and popularity of movies available as 3D versions coupled with a phase of rapid screen construction have combined to reinvigorate theatrical markets in the region.

One of the largest increases during first half 2010 was recorded in Bulgaria as several new screen openings as well as the very strong performance of one local film release pushed total attendance up by 85 per cent year on year. Total admissions reached 1.9m from January to June 2010, up from just 1.05m against the same period in 2009.  Box office revenues registered an even larger increase as they more than doubled from 8.14m leva to 16.75m leva (Eur 8.4m) in H1 2010. The influx of titles in 3D can be directly linked to ticket price inflation currently in the region of 15 per cent. As a result, average ticket prices finished on 8.81 leva, up from 7.71 leva at the same midway point in 2009. James Cameron's Avatar was the most popular feature of the year to date with 473,000 admissions, ahead of second-ranked Mission: London, now the most successful Bulgarian feature of all time (363,000 admissions).

In Romania, total cinema admissions reached 3.23m in the first six months of 2010, representing a 59 per cent increase over 2.03m in the same period 2009, according to Cineuropa. In Romania, the increase was again directly attributed to the influx of 3D movies, but also a significant number of new screen openings, including the territory's first Imax screen. Box office revenues registered a larger 72 per cent rise to 56.65m lei (Eur 13.6m) up from 32.84m lei (Eur 7.8m) in first half 2009.

Due to higher pricing for 3D movies, ticket price inflation is currently in the region of 8.5 per cent.  The unique 3D sci-fi epic, Avatar was the most popular title of 2010 to date with over 880,000 admissions, equivalent to one quarter of the total market. Following on from an increase of one third (33 per cent) in the total screen base in 2009, the territory is primed for further major screen expansion. Cinema City International, as Romania's largest circuit plans to open as many as 28 new multiplexes over the next few years. It has similar plans to expand its existing screen network in both Bulgaria and Poland.

The region's largest market, Russia, also registered a positive first half in line with the general upward trend in the region. Box office revenues reached $554.72m, a large 73.3 per cent increase on the same total in 2009, based on data for the period 1 Dec 2009 to end May 2010 in the CIS, but excluding Ukraine. The spike continues the boom period now typical of the Russian market, (despite a small blip in 2009 as reported in US$ dollar values, but not local currency terms).

Total admissions also rose sharply, up by one third from 62.8m to 84.03m in H1 2010 according to data from Russian film monitor, Kinobusiness. The differential can again be accounted for by 3D's higher ticket pricing mechanism. Top two grossing films of the year to date were both 3D releases, not least 3D epic Avatar, which generated over $112.9m, and became the highest grossing title of all time, followed by Shrek Forever After with $45.8m, now ranked as third highest overall. Russian exhibitors have invested heavily in digital equipment almost exclusively for 3D purposes. As at March 2010, there were approximately 410 digital 3D screens in Russia.

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