Decline blamed in part on 'Titanic's' take

BERLIN — With the exception of the magical month of June, German box office figures for the first half of the year show a drop of more than 11% compared with the same period last year, when “Titanic” was very much afloat.

In the first six months of 1999, theaters made DM 710 million ($384 million), pulling in a total of 66.9 million viewers.

Rolf Baehr, head of the German Film Board, said the numbers are not really bad, just skewed by “Titanic’s” extraordinary success. The pic attracted a whopping 12.8 million viewers in the first six months of 1998. This year’s business was better than 1997′s first half, Baehr pointed out.

June bloom

Thanks to “The Mummy” and “The Matrix,” figures in June soared. The summer action pics brought in 80% more moviegoers than last June, when potential viewers forsook the bigscreen in order to stay home and watch the World Cup soccer championships.

Box office receipts in the eastern part of the country saw a significant drop of 10.4%, while in western Germany, 8.7% less people went to the movies. While large parts of the eastern region suffer from high rates of unemployment, some experts have wondered if the numbers might point to more fundamental differences among former East and West Germans.

Different strokes

Pic preferences among people who grew up in East Germany’s socialist culture might be very different than those of West Germans, who were raised on a steady diet of Hollywood movies. Others blamed distributors who try to play it safe in small eastern cities by putting on a few major films at local cinemas and end up keeping out smaller pics in the process.

Baehr said the board would study the phenomena in search of some answers.

As for new theater openings, the total number of screens nationwide went up by 191 and stands at 4,458.

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