13.5% increase in the first half of the year

BERLIN — Local pics helped the German box office rise 13.5% in the first half of the year — its best showing for the time period over the past five years.

Domestic productions such as Senator Film’s “The Reader,” which grossed $20 million, Disney’s “Lilly the Witch” and, from Constantin Film, local laffer “Maennersache,” and teen pics “The Wild Chicks and Life” and “Freche maedchen” (Cheeky Girls) held strong while Hollywood imports also bucked the financial crisis to see record results.

Exhibs rang up $582.4 million in ticket sales in the first six months of the year as admissions climbed 7.5% to 62.8 million. Top titles were Sony’s “Angels and Demons” — with $47.1 million, the biggest moneymaker between January and July — and “Twilight,” distribbed by Concorde, which grossed $24 million.

Announcing the figures last week in Berlin, Andreas Kramer, head of exhib association HDF Kino, said the number reflected the success of many smaller films, rather than just one or two blockbusters, that managed to draw older auds. Among these were Warner’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” as well as “Slumdog Millionaire” and French laffer “Welcome to the Sticks,” both distributed by Prokino.

Local exhibs have even more reason to be giddy looking forward to the second half of the year. “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” which hit theaters July 1, has become the biggest hit so far this year with $52.4 million and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” took in $24 million in its first weekend — the same amount “Twilight” grossed in its entire theatrical run here.

“It’s really wonderful, especially when you compare it with the entire economic situation in the Federal Republic (of Germany),” said Johannes Klingsporn, head of the country’s association of film distributors, VdF.

Other high-profile titles hitting theaters this year include Universal’s “Inglourious Basterds,” Constantin’s tentpole tyke adventure “Vicky the Viking” and Warner’s “Zweiohrkueken,” the sequel to its 2007 mega hit “Keinohrhasen” (Rabbit Without Ears).

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