The most popular film of 2016 in Ireland was . . .

We still love the cinema. Last year Ireland had the joint highest attendance in Europe

Bridget Jones's Baby starring Renée Zellweger is the third film in the franchise and is directed by Sharon Maguire and written by Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson. Courtesy: Universal Pictures


When film journalists are stuck for something to say about the domestic industry they tend to nervously suggest that Irish people enjoy the cinema more than any other nation. Wasn’t that a fact once? Rejoice. It appears to still be true.

The 2017 report from UNIC (Union Internationale des Cinémas) has been published and it confirms that last year Ireland had the joint highest per capita cinema attendance in Europe. The Irish and the French tie with an average of 3.3 visits per year. This is well up on the European average of just 1.6 visits. The United Kingdom scored decently with 2.6 visits.

The Irish also top the chart for screen density. We have 104 screens per million inhabitants. The French come second with 90 screens.

Despite the recent surge in Irish cinema, the nation cannot, however, compete with the mighty French when it comes to buying tickets for domestic fare. A mere three percent of total takings went towards the likes of Room and The Young Offenders.

The French forked out 35 percent on films concerning Madame Mercier’s adventures au bord de la mer (or whatever). The Turkish are most fond of their own movies. In that nation, an astonishing 51 percent was soaked up by domestic titles. Now that’s an industry.

Ireland’s top five films in 2016

  1. Bridget Jones’s Baby
  2. Finding Dory
  3. The Secret Life of Pets
  4. The Jungle Book
  5. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Sociologists have long pondered Ireland’s affection for the cinema. The theory has always been that a youthful population boosted attendance. If you’re living at home and you want to get into a darkened space for two hours then the local Enormoplex remains an attractive option.

But the top 10 for 2016 offers some interesting lessons. Family films always do well and, with €3.5 million in receipts, Finding Dory came a respectable second. The Secret Life of Pets and The Jungle Book were right behind. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them rounded out the top five.

So it’s about young people and even younger people? Not necessarily.

At the start of 2016, few would have guessed that the highest grossing film of the calendar year would be Bridget Jones’s Baby. But so it proved. That picture was way ahead with €4.1 million.

To put this turn-up in perspective, consider that the third film in Helen Fielding’s singleton saga was only the 39th highest grossing film worldwide. Coming in at number 99 in the US charts, it registered as a genuine flop on the other side of the Atlantic.

There are two lessons worth heeding here. First, if you want to succeed in Ireland, it’s worth your while making a half-decent film. The crummy Absolutely Fabulous movie died a death after a good first weekend. Helped by some script tweaking from Emma Thompson, Bridget Jones’s Baby proved to be funnier and lighter on its feet than either of its predecessors (admittedly, the second film was appalling).

The second lesson has to do with demographics. Obviously, all kinds of people enjoyed Bridget Jones’s Baby. This newspaper is not at home to cultural stereotyping. But that film unquestionably picked up more traffic from middle-aged women than most other films in the top 10.

Such people are being overlooked by a mainstream that aims most big-budget films at teenage comic-book fans and science-fiction geeks. Again, anybody of any age or gender can enjoy Captain America: Civil War. But it looks as if there’s an untapped audience there.

The UNIC report contains interesting information about national tastes. In the UK, Star Wars: Rogue One topped the chart followed by Fantastic Beasts and North Atlantic favourite Bridget Jones’s Baby.

The only other country in Europe where Bridget scored top place was The Netherlands (beats me, too).

Local titles bossed the charts in quite a few countries: The Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Turkey. The baffling European popularity of the useless Ice Age cartoons continues with the latest episode scoring top place in Bulgaria and Croatia.

Indeed, family films are still the most common winners. The French, the Russians and the Germans favoured Zootopia. The Latvians, the Swiss and the Austrians went for The Secret Life of Pets.

We doff our hats to the Spanish who made the harrowing, moving A Monster Calls their highest grossing film of 2016. Okay, it had some home advantage. Though set in the UK, it is a Spanish co-production from local director J A Bayona. That’s still classy, mind you. Felicitaciones!

Most popular films 2016 by country

  • Austria The Secret Life of Pets
  • Belgium Finding Dory
  • Bulgaria Ice Age: Collission Course
  • Croatia Ice Age: Collission Course
  • Czech Republic Andel Páne 2
  • Denmark Flaskepost fra P
  • Estonia Klassikokkutulek
  • Finland Risto Räppääjä ja yöhaukka
  • France Zootopia
  • Germany Zootopia
  • Greece Worlds Apart
  • Hungary The Secret Life of Pets
  • Ireland Bridget Jones's Baby
  • Israel The Secret Life of Pets
  • Italy Quo Vado?
  • Latvia The Secret Life of Pets
  • Lithuania Tarp musu¸ berniuku
  • Luxembourg Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  
  • Montenegro / Serbia* Stado
  • Netherlands Bridget Jones's Baby
  • Norway Kongens nei
  • Poland Pitbull. Niebezpieczne Kobiety
  • Portugal The Secret Life of Pets
  • Romania Suicide Squad
  • Russia Zootopia
  • Slovakia Finding Dory
  • Spain A Monster Calls
  • Sweden En man som heter Ove
  • Switzerland The Secret Life of Pets
  • Turkey Dag 2  
  • UK Rogue One A Star Wars Story

(Source: UNIC annual report 2017.*Data collected for Montenegro and Serbia is combined due to local distribution practices)

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