Ticket sales down but every sixth cinemagoer saw a 3D film.

German cinemas sold almost 20m fewer tickets last year compared to 2009, while 3D releases attracted three times as many cinemagoers compared to the previous year, according to figures released by the German Federal Film Board (FFA) on the eve of this year’s Berlinale.

The FFA’s board member Peter Dinges reported that there had been a significant 13.5% year-on-year drop in admissions from 2009’s 146.3m to 126.6m, but the box-office revenues had only slipped by 5.7% to € 920.4m thanks to the “cushioning effect” of the wave of 3D films coming into the cinemas.

A separate analysis of the reception of 3D films showed that 18.4m cinema-goers had paid to see a 3D film last year – almost three times as many as the 6.9m who did this in 2009. Every sixth cinema-goer (17.1%) in Germany saw one of the new films in 3D, although only every 20th release (4.7%) was a 3D film.

“The rapid market development in this market segment shows the importance of the blanket funding for digital cinema,” Dinges noted. “After most of the federal states had now launched or announced their own programmes, one can now expect the funding to be able to begin within the next few days.” Eva Matlok, former managing director of the arthouse industry body AG Kino-Gilde, has been appointed as the project manager to coordination the digitisation support programme at the FFA.

However, German films could not repeat their success of 2009 – when they had been seen by 39.9m cinema-goers  - and ended last year with a market share of only 16.8% and total admissions of 20.9m.

“You can’t do without German film!” Peter Dinges argued. “It has long since become too important for our cinemas that a halving of its market share – as happened last year - could be absorbed by American or European productions.”

Moreover, the FFA’s statistics showed that the number of cinema screens in Germany fell for the fifth year in a row to 4,699, 35 screens fewer than in 2009. Dinges suggested that the continuous loss of cinema sites in Germany was “much more dramatic, because irreversible”. In 2010, there were 945 towns or communities with at least one cinema, compared to 967 in 2009 and 1,035 in 2005.

In preparing any future measures to counter this downward trend, “one has to be very precise about asking what the reasons are for people in these regions no longer going to the cinema and their owners being forced to give up [running the cinemas],” Dinges concluded.