Swiss cinemas: more films, fewer filmgoers

Filming the most-watched Swiss film of 2018, "Wolkenbruchs wunderliche Reise in die Arme einer Schickse" (Wolkenbruch's Wondrous Journey Into the Arms of a Shiksa). Joel Basman plays a young Orthodox Jew who falls for a non-Jewish girl Keystone

How have your cinema habits changed over the years? If you’re like most people in Switzerland, you’re going less often – between once and twice a year – and, when you do go, you end up in a multiplex watching an American film.

This content was published on August 16, 2019 - 15:02

While the number of cinemas in Switzerland has halved since 1960, the number of screens has stayed at around 600 (after a dip in the 1980s), the Federal Statistical Office’s 2019 report on film and cinema in SwitzerlandExternal link revealed on Thursday.

Kai Reusser /

This is explained by the growth of multiplexes with smaller screens. Around 70% of single-screen cinemas have closed in the past 60 years.

The number of films released in Swiss cinemas has doubled since the mid-1990s to just over 2,000 in 2018 – returning to late-1980s levels – but films are getting a shorter run.

Despite this increased choice, fewer people are opting for the big-screen experience. The number of cinema admissions has fallen from 21 million in 1980 to fewer than 12 million in 2018.

This works out at only 1.4 tickets sold per person last year, compared with 3.3 in 1980. That said, people in French-speaking Switzerland head to the pictures the most (1.9 times a year) while those in the Italian-speaking part of the country go less than once a year (0.8).

This places Switzerland in the middle of the European rankings, behind France (3), Britain (2.7) and Italy (1.5) but ahead of Germany (1.3). Icelanders, presumably looking for somewhere warm, buy an average of four cinema tickets each a year.

Weak ticket sales

What are the Swiss watching? Of the 2,073 films shown in Swiss cinemas last year, some 930 were made in the EU, 500 in the United States, 330 in Switzerland and 310 elsewhere.

However, US films generated two-thirds of ticket sales, compared with 23% for EU films and just 6% for Swiss films. Of the top 25 filmsExternal link last year, only four were not American.

In other words, more Swiss films are finding their way to cinemas than ever before – three times more than in 1995 – but most have only a few screenings and not many people are watching them.

These figures have remained more or less stable since the mid-1990s, with Swiss films struggling to repeat their record market share of 2006. One development, however, is that whereas in the “golden years” of 2003-2006 German-language Swiss films were largely responsible for the overall success, ticket sales for Swiss films are now more evenly spread over the country’s linguistic regions, with Italian-language Swiss films in particular improving at the box office.

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