German Box Office Dropped 69 Percent in 2020

Bad Boys for Life Still 5 - Publicity - H 2020
Ben Rothstein

Sony's 'Bad Boys for Life,' released before the pandemic, earned $18 million in Germany, good enough for the number 1 spot in a year battered by COVID-19.

Theatrical revenue in the country took a massive hit due to coronavirus lockdowns in spring and fall with only limited re-openings last summer. 

Germany's box office last year was decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, with official figures showing a 69 percent drop in revenue compared to 2019. 

The German Federal Film Board (FFA) has published its official figures, showing theatrical revenue fell to just $386 million (€318 million) in 2020, down $857 million (€706 million) from the previous year. Admissions figures — at 38.1 million tickets sold — dropped 67.9 percent, or down 80.5 million tickets from 2019. 

"It's a very bad result, but one that was to be expected in this situation," said FFA chair Peter Dinges. "The situation for the industry remains very difficult."

The German government first shuttered cinemas in mid-March last year as the country went into its first COVID-19 lockdown. Reduced Corona infection rates prompted Berlin to re-open theaters in July, but only at a reduced capacity of around 20 percent to 25 percent of full occupancy. A COVID-19 resurgence in late fall led to a second lockdown, with cinemas again shutting down in November.

Germany remains in lockdown, and cinemas remain closed. It is unlikely theaters, and the country as a whole will re-open before the end of March. 

Bad Boys for Life, released in Germany by Sony Pictures in January 2020, before the pandemic hit the country, was the best-performing film of the year in the territory, with 1.8 million admissions and box office revenue of $18 million. It was a result, the FFA noted, which wouldn't have been enough to secure a place in the top 10 in 2019. 

With little competition from U.S. titles, most of which were pulled or shifted online, German movies accounted for a greater proportion of sales. Local-language titles accounted for a record 35 percent market share in 2021. "Given the circumstances, a bitter record," noted the FFA. 

Government support for cinemas and their employees, part of broader economic relief programs, has helped prevent mass bankruptcies or theater closures in Germany.

But Dinges warned that "the effects of the pandemic on the cinema landscape will only become apparent in the course of this year." He was hopeful, however, that once cinemas can reopen safely, audiences will return. "People are just waiting for [cinemas] to finally open again. After the restart, things will really take off." 

Germany's box office collapse was mirrored across most of Europe. Recent figures from the International Union of Cinemas (UNIC), a cinema industry body, showed a box office drop of 70.6 percent across Europe in 2020, with theatrical revenues plunging a total of $7.5 billion (€6.2 billion) across 38 European territories.