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Country Focus: Germany

Germany 2009: Growth and disagreements

- Key figures Germany in 2009
Population: 81,86m inhabitants
Cinema attendance: 146,3m admissions
Screens and seats: 4734 screens /819.310 seats
Market share for German productions: 27,4%
National and regional film support: Euro 308 millions
Films released in Germany: 513
German films released: 216 (144 feature films and 72 documentaries), of which 77 were German co-productions
Source: FFA

The terrific growth does not seem to reach its peak

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cinema attendance in Germany has reached levels not seen since 2004, with roughly 146 millions admissions, which means a 13% growth in comparison with 2008. Germans are not only going more to the theatres, but are more interested in their local productions, with a market share of 27,4%, an unachievable figure at the end of the past century, and the best of this one so far, with the five most successful German productions included in the box office top-20. Beyond the success, there is still no such a thing as a German label at an international level, since either its productions rarely go beyond the borders of the German-speaking territories (Rabbit Without Ears 2, Vicky the Viking [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) or are wannabe American époque super-productions, shot in English with a foreign cast (Pope Joan [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, Valkyrie or The Reader [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
).

Furthermore, the amount of co-productions has been increasing exponentially during the last years. In 2009 there were 20 productions more involving one or more foreign partners than the year before, amounting to 77 films. It seems that everybody wants to co-produce with Germany, especially since the DFFF (German Cinema Fund) was put in place in 2007, injecting around 60 million euro a year during three years in the production industry. By the end of 2009 the BKM (Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media) approved an extension of this successful mechanism until 2012, fortunately introducing new regulations regarding the amphibious productions (marketed both for theatres and, in several episodes, for TV), that now will need to be released with more than 200 prints and deliver a TV version with at least 20% more material than the cinema one so as to be eligible for the DFFF, what makes this model only attractive for mega productions and should reduce therefore the influence of TV formats and genres on cinema productions.

In terms of awards, 2009 has also been a good year for Germany: the Prize of the Jury in Berlin for Alle Anderen [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Maren Ade
film profile
]
(Maren Ade), the Golden Palm in Cannes for The White Ribbon [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Michael Haneke
film profile
]
(Michael Haneke), the Silver Lion in Venice for Fatih Akin (Soul Kitchen [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), or the Golden Globe for The White Ribbon, together with the Oscar nomination for the latter have generated international awareness of the German cinema.

Exhibition and digitization

Is it all growth and only growth? Not really, since cinema theatres are closing all over the country. It is not necessarily a German problem but a global one, due to the fact that consumers prefer other windows and formats and they are more and more demanding regarding the quality of the theatres. It is confirmed by the fact that less and less German small cities have a cinema.

The disagreements between part of the exhibition industry and the FFA that led to the breaking-off of negotiations for the digitization of theatres will not help to improve this situation. Nevertheless the BKM has announced that will invest at least 4 million euro for the digitization of theatres, when a route map has been agreed.

Time plays against the small exhibitors, because if right now, still in the verge of the conversion to the 3D era, many less profitable local and art-house cinemas have seen themselves forced to close, what is going to happen when 3D is broadly introduced?

The broadcasters’ levies, a never ending story

Since 2008 there has been running one of the most thrilling soap operas in the cinema history of Germany: Cinema exhibitors went to the court to protest against the Federal Cinema Law that obliges exhibitors and video distributors to pay a percentage of their annual profits to sustain the FFA. Broadcasters also finance the FFA, but in their case they negotiate the amount directly with the FFA; no fixed percentage is established by the law, and this has been the reason for dispute. By now both regional and federal courts have agreed with the plaintiffs (exhibitors and video distributors), which has forced the Federal Culture Ministry to lay out an amendment to the law that, when approved, will include broadcasters’ contribution quota to the FFA.

Top-five of German productions

Top-5 / Position in the box office / Title / Genre / Production countries / Distributor in Germany / Admissions in Germany:

1 / 3 / Wickie und die starken Männer / Children’s film, adventure / Germany / Constantin / 4.891.161
2 / 6 / Zweiohrküken / Comedy / Germany / Warner Bros. / 3.340.379
3 / 12 / Die Päpstin / History / Germany, Italy and Spain / Constantin / 2.339. 213
4 / 13 / Der Vorleser / Drama / Germany, USA / Senator / 2.187.327
5 / 16 / Männerherzen / Comedy / Germany / Warner Bros. / 2.094.192

1.- Vicky the Viking (Wickie und die starken Männer): Germany’s most acclaimed family entertainer, Michael “Bully” Herbig, adapts to the cinema the popular cartoon series from the seventies, producing the most expensive family entertainment film ever in the country, with a budget of roughly 8 million euro. (Rat Pack Filmproduktion, Constantin Film and HerbX Film GmbH).

2.- Rabbit Without Ears 2 (Zweiohrküken): Til Schweiger tries to take advantage of the success of Rabbit Without Ears (Keinohrhasen) [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
released in 2007 repeating its romantic comedy formula. (Seven Pictures, Warner Bros., Barefoot Films and Rothkirch Cartoon Film).

3.- Pope Joan (Die Päpstin) [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
: With a budget of 22 million euro, this co-production between Germany, Spain and Italy tells the legendary story of Pope Joan, a woman that had reigned for a short period in the Vatican in the 9th century (Constantin Film, ARD Degeto Film, Dune films, Ikiru Films, Medusa Film and UFA).

4.- The Reader [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
: British director Stephen Daldry adapts the German homonym bestseller by Bernhard Schlink; a coming-of-age love story set in the post-WWII Germany casting Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, Bruno Ganz and Alexandra Maria Lara. (Mirage Enterprises, Neunte Babelsberg Film and The Weinstein Company)

5.- Männerherzen [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
: Again Til Schweiger and again an easy German comedy, a formula that seems to be effective, at least for the local market. (Wiedemann & Berg Filmproduktion).

Julio Talavera Milla – Cineuropa.org

 

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