Germany Box Office 2015: Record Year, Even Before 'Star Wars'

Look Who's Back_Hitler_Comedy
Constantin Film Verleih

Local titles, such as Hitler comedy 'Look Who's Back,' helped the German box office to an all-time high before 'The Force Awakens' arrived to seal the deal.

German movie theaters have reason to celebrate this holiday season. According to forecasts, 2015 will turn out to the most successful year ever at the German box office, with revenue topping $1.3 billion (€1.20 billion), a massive 15 percent jump from the previous record — set in 2012 — of $1.13 billion (€1.03 billion).

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, which opened to a jaw-dropping $27.3 million in Germany, has something to do with it. The four-day take was an all-time record for the German market. But even before Germany felt the unstoppable Force of J.J. Abrams' sci-fi extravaganza, 2015 was already on track to smash all previous records. 

The German box office enjoyed a perfect storm of local hits and solid Hollywood titles spread nicely over the entire year, ensuring theaters stayed full and registers kept ringing.

Things really kicked off in February, with the premiere — at the Berlin Film Festival — of Fifty Shades of Grey. The erotic thriller earned more than $42 million in Germany, setting exhibitor hearts racing. It was followed by Furious 7 ($41 million) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($31 million) in April and a summer that included Universal's Minions ($63 million) and Jurassic World ($48 million).

But it was the fall and the arrival of local-language comedy Suck Me Shakespeer 2 that made it clear the German box office was on a record-breaking course. Bora Dagtekin's school days comedy, starring Elyas M'BarekJella Haase and Karoline Herfurth, earned a phenomenal $70 million in Germany, making it the number one film in the country until Star Wars arrived. 

The biggest surprise of the year, however, was another German comedy: Look Who's Back. David Wnendt's adaptation of the best-selling satirical novel by Timur Vermes could have been a disaster. The plot has Adolf Hitler waking up, alive, unrepentant and unchanged, in modern-day Berlin. Instead, it delivered both laughs and rave word-of-mouth (if mixed reviews), and earned more than $21 million.

Both Suck Me Shakespeer 2 and Look Who's Back are from Munich-based producer Constantin Film, which got its mojo back in 2015 to return to the top of the local indie scene.

Not far behind was StudioCanal, which had a string of in-house hits, including Shaun the Sheep ($12 million) and German-language kids film Heidi (which opened to $1.25 million and hopes to be a Star Wars counter-programming success over the holiday period). The German arm of the French studio is also the only StudioCanal division with rights to the Hunger Games franchise, so it closed out the year with The Hunger Games—Mockingjay, Part 2, which, in Germany at least, became the highest-grossing title in the franchise, earning just under $40 million.