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Soccer Kicks Hollywood to Limp May-June Performance in Europe

As of the end of June, domestic box office was up slightly year-over-year, and the news is even better from overseas. Overalli International box office is up about 20 percent for the first six months of 2008, but May and June have been a major disappointment. In fact, box office in foreign markets for May and June is off almost nine percent from the same period last year. One factor in this decline that has not been discussed much is the Euro Cup of soccer.

Although soccer has failed to gain significant traction in the US, it is king in Europe, and the Euro Cup happens just once every four years. Nations begin gearing up in May with the spectacle of the games themselves beginning in June. Spain upset Germany 1-0 in the championship game, which was played on June 29.

To put the impact of the Euro Cup into perspective, Germany’s opening round game against Poland drew a 70 share in Germany. The Netherlands’ opener against Portugal drew an 82 share in Holland and an 80 share in Portugal. When Switzerland, a co-host of the Euro Cup took on the Czech Republic, 70 percent of all Swiss watching television were tuned to the game. Ultimately, the title game drew an 80 share in Germany and an 81 share in Spain. Most of these numbers are bigger than any NFL Super Bowl and in some countries, games out-rated the 77 share received by the M*A*S*H finale in the U.S. back in 1983.

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A sampling of box office receipts in individual European countries suggest that the Euro Cup has caused a movie slowdown in May and June year-over-year. In the last eight weeks, ticket sales are off five percent in Spain, eight percent in Portugal, 11 percent in Switzerland, 12 percent in Italy, 20 percent in the Netherlands, 25 percent in Germany and 26 percent in Austria. The UK’s team did not even qualify for the Euro Cup, but Euro Cup TV ratings were still strong, and May-June box office was down 10 percent in Great Britain. That represents a significant bite from the overall international take for Hollywood.

The Olympics in Beijing, set for August 8-26, could also make a dent in international grosses, and depending on how well the U.S. Olympic team performs, the quadrennial competition would even have a dampening effect at U.S. theatres. I will examine the “Olympics effect” in future articles.

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