Cinema attendance in Bulgaria up in 2023, but still below pre-pandemic levels – preliminary data

There were 4.5 million admissions to cinemas in Bulgaria in 2023, up from four million in 2022, with the latest figures still below pre-pandemic levels, according to a report by the European Audiovisual Observatory about the preliminary 2023 data on European cinema attendance in Europe and on the shares of admissions attributed to national productions.

Gross box office earnings at Bulgarian cinemas added up to an estimated 53.2 million leva in 2023, up from 41.9 million leva in 2022, the report said, citing data from the Bulgarian National Film Centre.

The European Audiovisual Observatory is part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. It provides data and analysis on the cinema, television and VOD industries in Europe, from an economic and legal point of view. 

According to initial findings compiled by the European Audiovisual Observatory, cinema attendance in wider Europe  rose to about 859 million admissions in 2023.

This reflects a positive year-on-year rise of 18.1 per cent, signifying an increase of 131.8 million tickets compared to 2022.

These figures, while encouraging, still fall short of the pre-pandemic average of 1.11 billion yearly admissions observed between 2017 and 2019 (-22.9 per cent), a media statement said.

Similarly, within the European Union and the United Kingdom (EU27+UK ), admissions soared to an estimated 784.7 million in 2023, marking an increase of 128.9 million tickets from the previous year, representing a remarkable 19.7 per cent year-on-year growth. In this case, admissions are down 20.1 per cent compared to pre-pandemic averages.

In 2023, the growth in the European theatrical sector that characterized the past three years was challenged by the strikes within the North American film industry, which started having a detrimental impact on the overall results due to production and release delays, as well as missed marketing opportunities, the statement said.

The repercussions of these disruptions are expected to linger into 2024, posing further obstacles to the cinema industry’s growth and suggesting that admissions levels might be approaching a new normal, characterised by a more tempered pace of expansion. 

In parallel to the previous year’s trends, cinema admissions in 2023 showed growth across most territories for which data was available, highlighting significant disparities among individual countries. 

Particularly noteworthy was the year-on-year growth in attendance in Ukraine (+60.1 per cent), Italy (+59.3 per cent), Albania (+42 per cent), and Greece (+34.8 per cent).

Of the 34 European countries with data available, only Czechia and Türkiye experienced declines in cinema attendance, with drops of -1.2 per cent and -17.9 per cent, respectively. 

In absolute numbers, France maintained its position as the European leader in theatrical attendance (180.8 million tickets sold), followed by the United Kingdom (123.6 million), Germany (95.7 million), and Spain (76.2 million). 

Initial estimates suggest that Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were the only European countries to surpass pre-pandemic attendance levels in 2023, by 17.2 per cent and 13.3 per cent respectively.

Conversely, Türkiye (-56.3 per cent), Ukraine (-50.1 per cent), and Sweden (-31.5 per cent) stand out as the only countries where attendance rates still lag more than 30 per cent behind 2017-2019 averages.

The statement said that it is too early to analyse admissions by origin, preliminary data indicates that American blockbuster titles, such as Barbie (US, GB), Oppenheimer (US), and The Super Mario Bros. Movie (US, JP), dominated the European box office.

(Photo: pexels)

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