Home grown Swedes breathe fire at the box office

Swedish films secured an unprecedented 33% market share in 2009 (compared  to a typical 20% share) bettered only by France’s 37%.    Meanwhile UK films dropped to 17% in 2009 after a particularly good 2008 share of 31% (the average between 2002 and 2008 was 25%).  What got the Swedes watching their own product?  In large part it was the phenomenal popularity of the three Steig Larsson adaptions The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, The Girl who Played with fire and The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest with over a million admissions for the first two and over half a million for the third.  Assuming it was largely the same people who went to see the three films that’s still over 10% of the entire Swedish population of 9 million that watched at least two of the movies and five percent who went to all three!

To put that in perspective its as if half a million Scots went to see a movie version of Rebus.  The only Scottish movie ever to achieve that kind of figure is Trainspotting which back in 1996/7 got 3.5m admissions in the UK and Ireland. Working on the basis (supported by the evidence) that on average 25% of the UK admissions for Scottish films are generated in Scotland that would suggest in excess of 875 000 admissions in Scotland).   The average (mean) cinema admissions for a Scottish film across the UK and Ireland is 187 000 which equates to around 50 000 in Scotland. 

To be fair a large proportion of very poorly performing films pulls the average down and so to get a true perspective on what a ‘hit’ in Scotland looks like audience-wise we should really look more closely at ‘successful’ films . If we take the top ten most succesful ‘Scottish’ films (i.e. applying a loose definition of what counts as Scottish) between 1993 and 2007 and look at either the calculated (i.e. converting the reported Scottish % of UK Box Office in cash back to admissions) or where this isnt known the estimated (at 25% of the UK admissions) we get this:

TITLE Year GB + Eire admissions Scottish admissions
Trainspotting 1996 3,504,422 876,106  est.
Last King of Scotland 2006 1,122,657 157,172  calc.
Mrs Brown 1997 890,080 222,520  est.
This Year’s Love 1999 827,474 82,747 calc.
Magdalene Sisters 2002 443,305 115,259  calc.
My name is joe 1998 237,901 95,160  calc.
Sweet Sixteen 2002 178,485 99,952  calc.
Young Adam 2003 174,616 43,654   calc.
The House of Mirth 2001 154,777 15,478  calc.
Regeneration 1997 153,844 16,923  calc.

Source: Lumiere Database, UK Film Council, Scottish Screen, Screen Media Research Centre at Edinburgh Napier University

So with the exception of Trainspotting a ‘hit’ Scottish film can typically expect to garner around 100,000 of the approximate 16 million cinema admissions in Scotland each year.    Of course the overall ‘indigenous’ share of the box office achieved depends on both the number and the individual performance of  Scottish films and so its the combination of not enough movies and not enough strongly performing movies that entice a significant share of the audience into the cinema that accounts for the rather disappointing overall audience share of somewhere approaching 2%.

Some way to go then if our home grown neeps are going to equal the Swedes popularity with  their home grown audience.


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