BERLIN — Eminem may have been powerless against Frodo Baggins, but he managed to attract 1.6 million German moviegoers and bagged nearly $11 million at the box office with his cinematic debut in “8 Mile,” which opened here Jan. 2.
The success of “8 Mile,” which has kept at bay tough contenders including “Reign of Fire,” “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Analyze That,” didn’t surprise many in the industry. Germany is the second biggest devourer of rap music after the U.S., and the second-biggest music market overall.
For a month, the Grammy-nominated artist has held steady at No. 2 in the German singles charts with “Lose Yourself” from the “8 Mile” soundtrack, while “The Eminem Show,” which dominated the longplay charts throughout the summer, recently returned to the top 10 (at No. 9).
“We’ve coordinated our marketing and press activities very closely with Universal Music,” says Karola Schmitt, head of publicity at UIP. Eminem has a huge following among Germany’s youth, but many filmgoers are getting their first real look at the star.
“Among parents, seeing the film has become a hip thing to do in order to understand their kids’ attraction to Eminem,” Schmitt adds.
Germany’s fast-growing hip-hop culture has helped pave the way for the pic’s successful box office take. Teutonic hip-hop, which got its start in the late 1980s, has developed into a formidable industry in its own right, making bands and producers such as Die Fantastischen Vier, Fettes Brot, Moses Pelham, Thomas Hofmann and Martin Haas mainstays in the fast-growing urban music scene.
According to Ed Ward, NPR’s Berlin-based rock historian, the U.S. military did its part to nurture the local taste for the R&B sound: “France had minority artists from Africa and the West Indies who adopted hip-hop music. In Germany, it was G.I.s who provided local kids with a link to American black music. Rap has a strong DIY (do it yourself) factor, which allowed it to really take off here.”