German boxoffice still in recovery

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COLOGNE, Germany -- German ticket sales last year rebounded from a truly awful 2005, but boxoffice figures released Friday show German moviegoers are still not flocking to the movies with the same enthusiasm as in the late 1990s.

German theaters sold 131 million tickets for a total boxoffice of €789.3 million ($1 billion) in 2006, according to numbers released by Nielsen EDI. That compares to 121.3 million tickets and €745 million a year earlier.

But 2005 was the worst year in a decade for the German industry. Compared to previous years, the 2006 figures look less rosy.

Boxoffice revenue was the lowest in the territory since 1997, when €750.9 million was collected at the turnstiles. Excluding 2005, fewer Germans went to the movies last year than at any time since 1995, when just 124.5 million tickets were sold.

There were a handful of huge hits, led by 20th Century Fox's "Ice Age -- The Meltdown," with 8.7 million tickets sold and €48.7 million ($63.4 million), but only a handful.

Just 10 films sold more than 2 million tickets in Germany last year and only five broke the 4 million ticket barrier -- the territory's blockbuster benchmark.

In addition to "Ice Age," Buena Vista's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (7 million tickets, $62.1 million) and Sony Pictures' "The Da Vinci Code" (5.6 million tickets, $50.7 million) led the Hollywood charge.

But several high-profile titles failed to shine. Chief among them was "Cars," which stalled with just 1.67 million tickets sold and $14.2 million at the German boxoffice, a fraction of what previous Pixar films such as "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo" earned in the territory. The Nascar-themed "Cars" was apparently too U.S.-centered for the German audience.

Another disappointment was "Eragon." The fantasy feature about a young dragon rider earned less than $10.4 million in Germany with just 1.3 million tickets sold.

Local films fared better, with three homegrown titles cracking the top 10 for 2006.

Constantin Film's "Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" came in fourth overall, selling 5.5 million tickets for a total take of $49.9 million.

Soccer documentary "Germany. A Summer Fairytale," from independent distributor Kinowelt, was this year's Cinderella story. With 4 million tickets sold and a boxoffice tally of $31 million, the Soenke Wortmann-directed docu set a new record for a non-fiction film in the territory.

Also sneaking into the top 10 was "7 Dwarves 2: The Forest is not Enough," the sequel to the hugely successful fairytale spoof of 2004. The new film sold 3.5 million tickets for a gross of $25.4 million.

There also was a strong second tier of German independent productions. Led by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's European Film Prize winner and Golden Globe nominee "The Lives Of Others" (1.7 million tickets, $14.2 million), this group ran the gambit from kids films such as "Hui Buh: The Castle Ghost" (2 million tickets, $13.5 million) to the dark humor of Marcus Rosenmueller's "Grave Decisions" (1.3 million tickets, $9.9 million).

In total, German films accounted for 23% of the total boxoffice in 2006, just behind the record 23.8% share Teutonic titles took in 2003.
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