Teutonic B.O. touts homegrown fare

BERLIN — German films have come up aces again. Six months into the year only three movies — all German — have managed to cross the magic 3-million-admissions benchmark here to achieve a Golden Screen Award.

While the first quarter’s remarkable 37% market share for domestic pics has leveled out to a still-respectable 24.4%, German pics have notched up grosses of DM156.6 million ($89.5 million).

The three films that got the national B.O. clicking were the Til Schweiger starrer “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” (3.3 million admissions), Helmut Dietl’s Munich film-world sendup “Rossini” (3.1 million) and Michael Schaak’s animated pic “Little Bastard” (3 million).

‘Patient’ top import

The closest to the 3 million mark, Anthony Minghella’s “The English Patient,” released here Feb. 27, has needed 19 weeks in action to even get to its current position a stone’s throw from the Golden Screen’s door.

The best of the other ’97 German releases so far were Bille August’s “Smilla’s Sense of Snow,” with 1.65 million admissions and Michael Huse’s “The Story of Monty Spinnerratz” with 653,143 admissions.

The latest release, the much-awaited Katja Riemann starrer “Bandits” directed by Katja von Garnier (“Makin’ Up”), sold 162,000 tickets in its first frame last week, behind “Batman & Robin” and “Con Air.” With the annual lull in attendance under way, exhibs were mainly satisfied.

Meanwhile, other German titles that contributed to the first six months’ success at home have begun to awaken interest abroad. Pics such as Roland Suso Richter’s “14 Day Life Sentence,” which made the top 10 tally earlier this year, has drawn enough attention for the remake rights to be sold to Disney label Touchstone Pictures.

Other titles have begun making it into European theaters. Wolfgang Becker’s “Life Is All You Get,” in competition at the Berlin Film Festival and released here in March, has gone to Spain where a theater run is reportedly planned.

Caroline Link’s moving drama “Beyond Silence,” released domestically in December, and which awakened huge interest at the Berlin fest, is likewise to start soon in Italian cinemas.

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