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Homegrown Hits Have German Box Office Humming

German films have continued to perform strongly at the box office this year despite record high temperatures over the summer, usually a death knell for local cinemas, and not to mention World Cup soccer, which kept many potential moviegoers at home or in sports bars across the country.

Local pics have benefitted from a strong mix of comedy, children’s fare and drama. German productions accounted for some 11.3 million admissions in the first half of the year, compared with 10.6 million in the first six months of 2017, resulting in a 22.4% market share, up from 18.2%.

“German films have been able to increase both their revenue and market share in a difficult market environment, which is already a special achievement,” Peter Dinges, CEO of the German Federal Film Board (FFA), tells Variety. “And with some high-profile movie launches in the second half of the year, I am extremely confident that this trend will continue until the end of the year.”

The top German performers in the first half of the year included adaptations of beloved children’s books, such as Dennis Gansel’s “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver,” which pulled in more than €11.8 million ($13.5 million) via Warner Bros., and Studiocanal’s “The Little Witch,” from director Michael Schaerer, which garnered more than $11.2 million. Constantin’s “This Crazy Heart,” one of last year’s biggest hits, continued its box office success into 2018, piling up nearly $19.5 million thanks in large part to lead actor Elyas M’Barek, the star of the hugely successful movie franchise “Fack ju Göhte,” and a touching story about an irresponsible wealthy young man who befriends a boy with a heart problem.

With hit “Sauerkrautkoma,” Constantin has not only sustained but also notably increased the box office success of its hugely popular country cop film franchise based on Rita Falk’s books about bumbling small-town Bavarian police officer Franz Eberhofer, played by Sebastian Bezzel.
Directed by Ed Herzog, the fifth and latest installment has raked in more than $8.9 million.

Other current hits include Til Schweiger’s “Klassentreffen 1.0 — Die unglaubliche Reise der Silberrücken,” about a group of high-school friends who meet up at their 30-year class reunion. The Warner title has so far garnered $9.4 million.

Studiocanal scored a critically acclaimed winner with Michael Herbig’s “Ballon,” a fact-based thriller about two East German families in the 1970s who attempt to flee to West Germany in a hot-air balloon. The pic has so far earned more than $5.5 million.

Dinges points out that Germany “is especially strong in comedy and traditionally in children’s films,” while the local arthouse sector has seen “extraordinarily successful films” in recent years, both at home and abroad. “This positive development has grown over the years and cannot be reduced to a few films and genres.”

Current releases with solid prospects include Constantin’s latest release, Sönke Wortmann’s “Der Vorname,” a German adaptation of Alexandre de La Patellière and Matthieu Delaporte’s stage play, and French-Belgian film “Le Prénom” (“What’s in a Name?”), about a dinner party that gets out of hand when one of the guests announces that he and his pregnant girlfriend are naming their son Adolf.

Also opening this fall is Detlev Buck’s ensemble canine comedy “Wuff” and Markus Goller’s “25 km/h,” about two brothers who set off on a road trip across Germany on mopeds.

Coming to cinemas this holiday season are anticipated films such as Florian David Fitz’s “100 Things,” in which the director stars alongside Matthias Schweighöfer in a comedy about two pals whose complicated lives becomes enjoyably simple when they make a wager to give up all their possessions.

Also hitting theaters are Warner’s “Der Junge muss an die frische Luft,” director Caroline Link’s biopic based on the childhood memoir of German comedian and entertainer Hape Kerkeling; and Sony’s animated “Tabaluga — Der Film,” based on the little dragon character created by German rock star Peter Maffay.

“The breadth, diversity and variety of storytelling have become a trademark of German cinema,” Dinges says. “Otherwise it would not be possible for German films, which have accounted for market shares of up to 27%, to have become such a strong and reliable constant in the German cinema market and also have a high reputation in Germany and abroad.”

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