German Box Office 2014: 'Hobbit,' 'Hunger Games' Limit World Cup Damage

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
The final 'Hobbit' film helped German cinemas bounce back in the fourth quarter

Cinema revenue fell in Germany in 2014, but not nearly as much as some feared

2014 was always going to be a tough year for German cinemas.

The World Cup, held last summer, is a known box-office killer as German fans eschew the cinema in favor of watching the Cup games at home or in the local beer garden. Indeed last year's tournament, which saw the German squad win the World Cup title for the first time since 1990, set television ratings records and was accompanied by appropriately dismal box-office returns.

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But figures released this week from box-office tracking service Rentrak suggest the damage done wasn't nearly as bad as many feared. Their figures show a slight drop in overall box-office revenue in Germany last year to around $1.1 billion (€920 million), a drop of about 2 percent compared to 2013. Rentrak's figures, which do not include previews and some other ticket receipts, tend to underestimate the final box-office take, so the results are likely to be even better when the German Film Board announces its official figures next month.

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The holiday season came to the rescue of the German box office, with the year's top two films: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 both bowing in the fourth quarter of 2014. The final edition in the Hobbit franchise has earned some $66 million and counting in Germany so far, while the penultimate Hunger Games has grossed about $37.5 million.

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Local-language titles and German co-productions took in $232 million (€196 million) in 2014, a 21.3 percent share of the box office. Two German films accounted for much of that take: Vaterfreunden, a rom-com vehicle directed by and starring Matthias Schweighofer, which grossed close to $21 million in Germany; and The Physician, a big-budget period drama from director Philipp Stolzl, which bowed on Christmas Day 2013 but took the bulk of its $37 million take in 2014.

The Hobbit helped Warner defend its position as the leading distributor in Germany, with a 18.2-percent share of the box office in 2014. In second place was Fox, whose hits, including How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, helped it to a 15.6-percent share in Germany.

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Third was Universal with 11.7 percent, thanks to titles such as The Wolf of Wall Street, Neighbors and Lucy. Munich-based Constantin was the number-one independent in Germany, taking a 7.1-percent market share.

But the surprise of the year was tiny Berlin distributor Neue Visionen, which landed a hit with French-language comedy Serial (Bad) Weddings. The politically incorrect laugher earned $32 million in Germany last year, cracking the top five and making Neue Visionen the ninth-most-successful distributor in the territory.

Twitter: @sroxborough

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