Homegrown fare takes root, buyers get picky


A rare sense of Teutonic optimism is in the air after cinemas posted solid gains this year following a dismal 2005, thanks in part to another strong run for homegrown fare.

German pics grabbed a 20% market share in the first six months when overall revenues rose 9% to E384 million ($485 million), the best first half for German films since 1997. Two German hits, Constantin’s “Perfume — The Story of a Murderer” and then Kinowelt’s World Cup soccer documentary “Deutschland: Ein Sommermaerchen” (Germany: A Summer’s Fairytale), have sparkled since then in the second half, topping B.O. charts for the last month.

The growing demand for homegrown fare has further narrowed the window for buyers, making them pickier when it comes to theatrical and, especially, TV acquisitions. There were 92 German releases in the first half, 23 more than in 2005.

“German viewers have become more selective about what they’ll watch,” says Daniel Guckau, senior VP, acquisitions, at Kinowelt. “There are still the few ‘must-see’ films, but others just behind that once did well aren’t working anymore. People are saving their money and waiting for the video,” he adds, citing Michael Douglas-starrer “The Sentinel” as fallling short of Kinowelt’s expectations.

Constantin topper Fred Kogel agrees it’s getting tougher to find slots for non-local pics in Germany, especially in TV.

“Germans like to watch German films,” Kogel says, noting that private webs Sat-1 and Pro-7 are the primary takers of international product, while pubcasters ARD and ZDF favor almost exclusively German-made productions. “In part it’s because the quality of homemade films has risen to such high levels in recent years. Also, a lot of people would rather see something about an issue that’s in their world or just around the corner from their way of thinking rather than something coming at them from a faraway place like the South Bronx, for example.”

Constantin is Germany’s top indie distrib, with an 8.6% market share through the first three quarters. Its production “Perfume” has passed the $30 million mark at home.

Tobis runs in second place with 4.1%, followed by Kinowelt at 3.3% and Prokino fourth at 2.2%.

Prokino topper Ira von Gienanth notes, “You can bring more dramas and complex films to Germany now; before only comedies seemed to work. Especially the 30-and-older crowds are coming back to the theater, and they want more real films, more European stories and less Hollywood confection, less fantasy.”

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