Local movies rule charts in final quarter

German films experienced an autumn renaissance at the home box office this year, topping the charts for nearly a dozen weeks — a feat unprecedented in the past 20 years.

Major hits such as “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” and “7 Dwarves — The Wood Is Not Enough” led local releases, but an unlikely title about an 11-year-old Bavarian boy’s obsession with religion and spirituality, “Grave Decisions,” also turned out to be surprise sleeper hit.

The coming-of-age tale has struck a chord with viewers and remained in the top 10 for an impressive 14 weeks, grossing Euros 7.2 million ($9.5 million).

Local films have in recent weeks accounted for as much as 26% of the overall box office.

Overall, Germany’s box office was up 9.4% (through Dec. 17) compared with the same period in 2005. Ticket sales have reached $728,845,220, and the boffo start of “Casino Royale” and a strong performance by “Eragon” further bolstered an already strong year.

Yet the current box office is still 9.1% below 2004 figures, which were boosted by local blockbusters such as “Spaceship Surprise,” the original “7 Dwarves” and Adolf Hitler pic “Downfall.”

This year’s German wave hit Sept. 14 with “Perfume,” and domestic pics dominated the box office through November. Constantin Film’s hit adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s gothic novel topped the charts for three weeks before giving way to Kinowelt’s World Cup docu “Germany: A Summer Fairytale,” which again ignited national soccer fever and likewise remained No. 1 for three weeks, followed by “7 Dwarves,” the sequel to 2004’s hit laffer, another three-week top-ranker.

The box office also saw strong local performers at the beginning of the year, such as Buena Vista Intl.’s European Film Award favorite “The Lives of Others” and “The Wild Soccer Bunch 3″ as well as Constantin’s “Elementary Particles.”

Top five earners so far this year include “Ice Age: The Meltdown” ($64.7 million), followed by “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” ($63.5 million), “The Da Vinci Code” ($51.9 million), “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” ($50.7 million) and “Casino Royale” ($35.9 million).

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