The EU member states from the Central and Southeast Europe regions have fewer cinema screen per capita than their western counterparts. While 20.2% of the EU’s population lives in the region, it has only 11.9% of overall screens, finds a study by the European Audiovisual Observatory.
The pattern is not uniform across the region, with the authors pointing out that Romania and Slovakia in particular have very high numbers of inhabitants per cinema screen.
“When it comes to infrastructure, the most obvious conclusion is that Eastern Europe is rather under-screened compared to the rest of the EU … Even if the GDP per capita is also lower than the EU average, this suggests there is scope for more theatres and screens, especially in countries such as Romania or Slovakia,” says the report.
Looking at access to cinemas, the study finds that 87.4% of the population in the region had at least one cinema within a 30-minute drive, and the share rose to 92.9% for a 45-minute drive. However, there were significant differences among countries. In the Czech Republic, 99.93% of the national population were less than 30 minutes away from a cinema, compared to residents of much larger Romania, which has a significant rural population; the figure in Romania was just 63.23%. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the only non-EU country assessed in the report, a mere 56.52% of citizens had access to a cinema.
The average catchment area per cinema ranged from 718,715 in Romania to just 215,013 in Estonia. Given the concentrations of populations in major cities, where most of the region’s cinemas are located, there were significant differences between the average and median population within the catchment areas.
“This shows that there are theatres that act as huge outliers. Logically, these venues can be expected to be multiplexes in the suburbs, and miniplexes and multiplexes in the centre of big cities,” says the report.
“In countries such as Romania there is scope for growth in the sense that a substantive share of the population has no access to theatres, whereas in countries such as Poland or Lithuania, the scope for growth is due to the fact that, even if most of the population have access to theatres, screens are very much in use (high number of admissions per screen) and therefore there is space for more screens to provide a more diversified offering,” it adds.
In addition, despite the critical acclaim for a growing number of films produced in the region — such as Hungary’s Academy Award winning Son of Saul and Romania’s Graduation which gained its director Cristian Mungiu a Palme d’Or in Cannes — the lion’s share of admissions especially in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania were for US-made films. The Czech Republic had the highest share of admissions to locally made films, at just under 30%, and was the only country in the region where this proportion wasn’t significantly below the EU average.