German Box Office Falls in First Quarter

There were few new hits in the first three months of 2014, with Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" the best new entry in the territory.

The German box office, which ended flat last year, has gotten off to a sputtering start.

Preliminary first quarter figures, released by Rentrak for the period from January 2 to March 30, show revenue slipped to $337 million (€245 million) from $352 million (€256.2 million) over the same period last year. Audience figures also slipped, with first quarter ticket sales falling from 32.1 million in 2013 to 30.4 million for Q1 2014.

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A lack of new Hollywood tentpoles to boost returns meant German theaters had to rely on indie entries -- and few delivered. Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street was the exception, grossing more than $30 million in Germany, making it the best first quarter performer in the territory.

Several local titles did well, with comedy Vaterfreunde earning $24 million and Stromberg, a crowdfunded adaptation of a hit German sitcom based on BBC's The Office, taking in close to $14 million. With the continued strong performance of German schooldays comedy Suck Me Shakespeer ($72.6 million to date) and English-language German production The Physician ($42.6 million), German titles accounted for an impressive 39 percent of total first-quarter box office, according to Rentrak's figures, and fully 41.8 percent of ticket sales.

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But the overall dip in the box office does not bode well for the year as a whole. German exhibitors are already preparing for the inevitable drop this summer, when the World Cup draws viewers out of the cinemas to watch the German soccer team compete. Germany will need a massive fourth quarter finish if it is to have any hope of even matching last year's less than stellar figures.