22 MAR 2024

European production is back on the growth track

A study by the European Audiovisual Observatory revealed that 2022 marked the second-highest production level of feature films produced in the EU and UK, with an estimated total of 1,951 feature films.

22 MAR 2024

  • Facebook
  • X
  • Linkedin
  • Whatsapp

European film production appears to be fully back on its pre-pandemic growth track, according to a report by the European Audiovisual Observatory. In 2022, an estimated total of 1,951 feature films were produced in the EU and the UK, corresponding to an 11% increase and 188 films more than in the previous year. This marks the second-highest production level ever registered, surpassed only by the record peak of 2,038 films produced in 2019.

This growth was mainly propelled by a surge in feature documentaries, which saw an increase of 115 films, bringing the total to 768 titles. In contrast, fiction films experienced a more modest increase of 73 films, reaching a total of 1,183 productions. The rebound in production activity was even more pronounced when considering broader Europe, where the number of theatrical features increased by 16% year-on-year, matching the previous record high of 2 354 films already set in 2019.

Production levels displayed varying degrees of growth across European countries, with considerable increases registered in Italy (+40 films, +14%), Spain (+37 films, +15%), Latvia (+25 films, +227%), and the Netherlands (+21 films, +38%). Outside the EU and the UK, Türkiye also saw a significant increase in production volume (+109 films, +136%). Conversely, production levels either declined or remained stable in a total of 11 European countries, including France (-57 films, -22%), Greece (-9 films, -33%) and Ireland (-8 films, -36%).

Overall investment in film production continued its rebound in 2022, growing in 10 out of the 13 countries for which data were available, often surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Noteworthy interannual increases were observed in Latvia (+206%), Switzerland (+145%), Estonia (+95%) and Cyprus (+94%). Only three countries saw a decline in total production investment: France (-13%), Belgium (-37%), and Ireland (-38%).

Despite remaining the single most important financing source for European fiction feature films, the share of direct public funding decreased over the time period covered, from 29.4% of total financing volume in 2016 to 24.0% in 2020. In contrast, the share of production incentives increased significantly for films of all budget sizes, particularly in medium and large markets, from 9.6% of total financing in 2016 to 17.8% in 2020. The contrasting trends caused financing shares of total public support to slightly increase, from 39.0% in 2016 to 41.8% in 2020. Among different budget clusters, films with budgets over 10 million euros (superhigh-budget films) registered the highest increase in public support (+11.2pp). The importance of broadcaster investments as a financing source declined in large markets, falling from 29.7% in 2016 to 21.4% in 2019, before slightly recovering to 22.9% in 2020. Lastly, the importance of pre-sales and producer investments has remained comparatively steady over time.

Similarly, average production budgets witnessed an uptick in 17 out of the 23 countries with available data, while remaining stable or decreasing in six markets. The year-on-year increase was particularly pronounced for UK domestic films, with average budgets tripling to GBP 1.3 million (EUR 1.6 million) in 2022. Average budgets also rose considerably in Estonia (+156%), Cyprus (+104%), Hungary (+85%), and Belgium (+35%). Once again, UK inward investment films were the most expensive productions in Europe, with an average budget of GBP 4.9 million (EUR 5.8 million), ahead of French films, ranking second with an average budget of EUR 4.4 million

While fluctuating somewhat between years, average budgets within the entire data sample remained comparatively stable between 2016 and 2020, with mean budgets ranging between EUR 3.14 million (2016) and EUR 3.41 million (2017) and median budgets ranging between EUR 2.00 million (2018) and EUR 2.28 million (2019). Fuelled by a shift towards more expensive productions, median budgets of films produced in small markets3 increased noticeably over the five-year timespan, growing from EUR 0.92 million in 2016 to EUR 1.25 million in 2020 and thereby significantly reducing the gap with average budgets of films produced in medium markets. On the other hand, median budgets in large markets fluctuated between EUR 3.25 million (2017) and EUR 2.74 million (2020), suggesting an uneven yet decreasing development.