German film revs in double-digit fall

VDF hoping 'Kong,' 'Potter' will reverse trend

Germany’s revenues from film ticket sales for 2005 will be down 15% to 20% on last year because of a dearth of Hollywood blockbusters, few strong local films and a weak domestic economy, according to German film distributors’ org VDF.

But VDF director Johannes Klingsporn on Tuesday tried to put a positive spin on the dramatic decline and an otherwise bleak year by pointing to a solid December fueled by “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” “King Kong” and other pics due out soon.

“We’ve passed through the trough in the valley and, after a rather weak 2005, we’re expecting a strong cinema year in 2006,” Klingsporn told a news conference. “We’re expecting a strong Christmas holiday season and a hot winter for cinema.”

Last month, the Media Control GfK reported ticket sales were down about 20% to 74.5 million through Nov. 27 and revenues declined nearly as steeply to e467 million ($558 million) from $684.7 million in the first 11 months of 2004. Klingsporn did not offer any concrete figures Tuesday.

“The business is dependent on so many factors, including even the weather, and there’s always a chance of running into a drought,” said Thomas Negele, chairman of the Assn. of German Theaters (HDF). “But that doesn’t mean the end of cinema is near. Cinema is just a cyclical business and it’s always going to be that way.”

Both were optimistic that next year’s films, including “Casino Royale,” “Perfume,” “The Da Vinci Code” and “Ice Age 2,” would give Germany a strong year comparable to 2004, one of its best ever, when 157 million tickets were sold and full-year revenues were just over $1 billion.

Negele said Germany’s film industry needed new direction and had to reach out to fresh target groups. He noted the number of viewers over 50 had nearly tripled to 14 million in the past decade.

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