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Big 'Surprise' boosts local B.O.

BERLIN — Two massive but massively different pics — campy sci-fi spoof “Dreamship Surprise — Period 1” and “The Downfall,” about the final days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich — have boosted Germany’s box office.

Thanks to these two titles, Constantin Film has garnered a 14.5% market share in the first three quarters of the year, becoming the No. 3 domestic distrib behind Warner Bros. (23.4%) and Buena Vista Intl. (15.6%).

Hollywood pics proved winners this year. A string of blockbusters released between May 3 and Aug. 29, including “Van Helsing,” “Troy,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Shrek 2” and “Spider-Man 2,” fueled a sizzling summer box office that saw a near 40% increase to S303 million ($365 million).

In a country where an overwhelming majority is rooting for John Kerry, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” also boosted indie Falcom Media, which has become the second most successful local distrib; with a 3.1% share, it trails Fox, which holds at 8.9%.

Fall also got off to a roaring start with local pic and Berlin honoree “Downfall,” which has grossed $24 million since its Sept. 16 release and remained at No. 1 for four weeks in a row.

German pics’ market share stood at about 14% at the half-year mark, but with boffo returns from local hits, which include Senator Films’ “The Miracle of Bern” and Falcom’s comedy “Der Wixxer,” it could reach 20% and beyond.

Senator, once Germany’s second-biggest distrib, has been reanimated after slipping into insolvency earlier this year. But its slow recovery has given smaller rivals a chance.

Arthouse distrib Solo Film broadened its pic selection somewhat to include Swedish horror pic “Drowning Ghost” and Turkish sci-fi comedy “G.O.R.A.” These titles, says topper Peter Heinzemann, are more mainstream targeted, “especially ‘G.O.R.A.,’ which we’ll present to Germany’s Turkish audience in a German subtitled version. More than 2.7 million Turkish people live in Germany and that is who we are focusing on in multiplexes.”

Germany at a glance

B.O.:$812 million*
Top title: “Dreamship Surprise” (Constantin Film, $63 million*)
Recent pickups: “Brokeback Mountain” (Tobis Film)
“Fascination” (Solo Film)
“5×2” (Prokino)
“Genesis” (Senator Film)
“House of Flying Daggers” (Constantin Film)
“Santa’s Slay” (3L/e-m-s)

Titles at AFM
Dreamship Surprise — Period 1:The sci-fi spoof about the campy crew of a phallic-shaped spaceship blew the roof off the local box office, but garnering similar success abroad may be a challenge. Cast includes Til Schweiger. (Bavaria Film Intl.)
Hell on Wheels:Tour de France doc chronicles the European bike race’s 100-year history and also showcases last year’s grueling Centennial contest. (Media Luna Entertainment)
Sergeant Pepper:Sandra Nettelbeck’s follow-up to her 2001 hit “Mostly Martha” focuses on Felix, a 6-year-old boy who prefers the company of his stuffed animals to humans until he meets talking dog Sergeant Pepper. (Bavaria Film Intl.)

* through September 2004

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