18/09/2014 : Press release - Only 16.3% of European films directed by women between 2003 and 2012

  • Within the same period 8.9% of the admissions for European films went to films by female directors.
  • On average, a film by a male director recorded slightly more than twice the number of admissions (1:2.02 female:male) than the average film by a female director.

These figures are drawn from the European Audiovisual Observatory’s latest report: Female directors in European film productions. State of play and evolution between 2003 and 2012 produced by Film Analyst Julio Talavera Milla. This first-of-its-kind pan-European analysis of films by female directors (produced using the Observatory’s LUMIERE database on admissions of films released in Europe) reveals that only 16.3% of the European films produced between 2003 and 2012 were shot by female directors. This percentage is even lower when it comes to the share of admissions, with European films by women directors accounting for 8.9% of the total admissions in Europe during the same period.

The Observatory’s report draws on 9 072 European films produced and released between 2003 and 2012, accounting for 3.2 billon admissions in Europe. The analysis has been carried out by looking at two main indicators: the number of films and the number of admissions considering a series of variables, namely: year of production, nationality of the production, gender of the director, type of production and country of release. The report is divided into three sections: in the first, the state of play is presented and the methodology of the report is explained; in the second, the European production market is considered as a whole; and in the third, each country is considered independently and national realities will be contrasted.


Male v. Female in International co-productions

In the second section, the report goes on to analyse what impact the gender of the director may have in terms of whether the film is a national production or an international co-production, as well as in terms of the type of release (local v. foreign). The share of international co-productions according to gender of the director was quite similar over the period between 2003 and 2012: 26.3% of the films directed by women had some level of foreign financial investment compared to 28% of films by male directors, a difference of just 1.7%; what is of particular note, however, is that the gap according to gender of the director widens when we look at the share of admissions to international co-productions. This figure stands at 41.7% for films by female directors (119.12 million admissions) as opposed to 46.9% for those films directed by men (1 384.5 million admissions) – a gap of 5.2%.


Respective theatrical release figures (Domestic v. foreign)

As far as theatrical release is concerned, most European films were released domestically, but only 52.8% of them had an international release within Europe between 2003 and 2012, with no relevant relative difference to be observed according to gender; the share of films with at least one foreign release in Europe in the period under analysis was 52.5% for films with female directors and 53.2% for films by male directors. Again, it is when one looks at the share of admissions that differences can be found, with 29.4% of tickets sold for films by female directors coming from non-national European markets as compared to 36.7% in the case of films by male directors.


Highest grossing productions

In order to compare the highest-grossing productions by directors of either gender a percentage (1% in this case) rather than a fixed number of films will act as the sample of the analysis; therefore the 75 (approximately 1% of the total 7 479 films in this category) best-performing films by male directors have been compared to the 15 (approximately 1% of the 1 479 films in its category) highest-grossing productions by their female counterparts. The top 1% of films by male directors represented 38.3% of admissions to films within this category as compared to only 23.7% in the case of films directed by women, thereby showing a much higher concentration of admissions at the top of the list of films directed by men. Furthermore, the gap by average admissions per film drastically increases at the top, close to 1:3.55 female:male.


Where do women make the most films and where do they get a bigger share of the cake?

The country-by-country analysis will show that the largest European countries are not at the top of the rankings by share of films and admissions to films by female directors. The countries with the highest production volumes and attendance levels for films by female directors are mostly medium-size production countries; in fact, the share of films produced or admissions for films by female directors in most of the largest production countries was below the overall European average.

The measurement of any kind of growth in this section has been done on a 5-year on 5-year basis during the period from 2003 to 2012; that is to say, by contrasting the results for the period from 2003 to 2007 with those for the period from 2008 to 2012. More countries grew in terms of number of films than by numbers of admissions between these periods. Moreover, growth in terms of number of admissions was more moderate than growth in terms of numbers of films for both gender categories. The number of European films produced grew by 19.5% whereas the numbers of admissions grew by only 8.3% over the same period. European films by female directors increased well above these rates (35.7% more films and 23.6% more admissions).

In terms of relative share, there was a shift of the status quo in favour of female directors from the period 2003 to 2007 to the period 2008 to 2012, both in terms of production volume and attendance levels; the share of films with female directors increased by 2.1% whereas the share of admissions increased by 1.2%. Overall, there was a widespread increase in the numbers of films produced over the period under analysis, particularly for those by female directors (in 17 of the 19 countries analysed), but this was not always accompanied by an increase in the numbers of admissions at the box office (this occurred in only 10 territories). The relative volume of films by female directors increased in the period from 2008 to 2012 compared to the period 2003 to 2007 in 14 of the 19 countries analysed, and there was a shift in the opposite direction in the remaining 5 countries. Conversely, in 9 of the 19 countries under analysis there was an increase in the numbers of admissions to female-directed films and a decrease in the remaining 10 countries.

In conclusion, more women were given a chance as directors, but this did not have a proportional impact on their share of the box office. Finally, the list of countries which saw a positive increase in terms of volume of production, numbers of admissions and performance of films by female directors to a sufficiently relevant extent to produce a shift in the status quo of these three indicators is quite limited and includes Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and Turkey.

Top 20 European films with female directors between 2003 and 2012

# Overall # Title Director Gender Production year Country of production  Admissions
1 13 Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason Beeban Kidron F 2004 GB/US/FR/DE/IE 20 419 559
2 14 Slumdog Millionaire Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan M, F 2008 GB 17 789 875
3 50 Arthur Christmas Barry Cook, Sarah Smith M, F 2011 GBINC/US 6 970 435
4 61 The Iron Lady Phyllida Lloyd F 2011 GB/FR 6 095 384
5 68 Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Susanna White F 2010 GB/US/FR 5 685 161
6 107 StreetDance 3D Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini M, F 2010 GB 4 319 731
7 116 LOL (Laughing Out Loud)  Lisa Azuelos F 2008 FR 4 087 655
8 130 Je vous trouve très beau Isabelle Mergault F 2005 FR 3 892 167
9 145 Coco avant Chanel Anne Fontaine F 2009 FR 3 754 725
10 165 One Day Lone Scherfig F 2011 GBINC/US 3 295 120
11 179 La rafle Roselyne Bosch F 2010 FR/DE/HU 3 126 931
12 192 Die weiße Massai Hermine Huntgeburth F 2005 DE 2 925 621
13 199 Les infidèles Fred Cavayé, Emmanuelle Bercot M, F 2012 FR 2 846 348
14 201 Palais royal! Valérie Lemercier F 2005 FR/GB 2 804 417
15 237 Enfin veuve Isabelle Mergault F 2007 FR 2 493 350
16 239 Comme une image Agnès Jaoui F 2004 FR/IT 2 482 690
17 243 Polisse Maïwenn F 2011 FR 2 452 250
18 251 Persepolis Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi M, F 2007 FR 2 343 533
19 259 Kirikou et les bêtes sauvages Michel Ocelot, Bénédicte Galup M, F 2005 FR 2 300 131
20 262 Allahin Sadik Kulu: Barla Orhan Öztürk Esin F 2011 TR 2 271 302

Source: European Audiovisual Observatory / LUMIERE database


The aim of the report was to provide solid figures on the issue”, says André Lange, Head of the Department for Information on Markets and Financing. “The objective was not to make an in-depth analysis of origins of the imbalance between genders in film direction and even less to provide recommendations on how to improve the situation. We just hope that this data will contribute to reinforcing the awareness on the issue and provide references for the continuing debate”.

Talavera Milla, Julio, Female directors in European film productions. State of play and evolution between 2003 and 2012, European Audiovisual Observatory, Strasbourg, 2014, ISBN 978-92-871-7987-6, EUR 30,00 / USD 30,00.

Journalists wishing to receive a free "press" copy of this publication, please contact:
Alison Hindhaugh, alison.hindhaugh@coe.int  - Tel. : 0033 (0)3 90 21 60 10

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LUMIERE - Database on admissions to films released in Europe

The database LUMIERE provides a systematic compilation of available data on admissions of films released in European cinemas since 1996. The database is the result of the collaboration between the European Audiovisual Observatory and the various specialised national sources as well as the MEDIA Programme of the European Union.


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