German cinema admissions have fallen 8% year-on-year in the first three quarters of 2002, but industry observers expect the new Harry Potter, James Bond and The Lord Of The Rings to effect a turnaround in the fourth quarter.

According to figures released by the Berlin-based German Federal Film Board (FFA) for the first nine months to September 30, a combination of fine weather in August and September, the floods in East Germany and fewer film releases resulted in 10.6m tickets being sold (down 8%) and box office takings slipping from 2001's Euros 692.9m to Euros 672.1m (down 3%).

In July, the FFA revealed in its half-year report that the number of cinema-goers had increased year-on-year from 79.7m to 80.7m - equivalent to growth of 1.3% -, with box-office revenues expanding by 7.8% from Euros 442.1m to Euros 476.4m.

"Until July the positive tendency [of the first six months of 2002] remained stable,", the FFA reported. "The plus of the first six months melted away. The national deficit in admissions amounted to 36% in August and 30% in September. The deficit also turned out so high because, in the comparative statistics for 2001, August with 17.5m admissions had been the strongest summer month of the last ten years."

At the same time, the admissions total of 11.5m to the end of September is around 5m more than for the same period in 2000 and more than 10m more than in 1999.

As the FFA's statistics show, the industry sorely missed not having a local blockbuster hit a la Manitou's Shoe this year: the domestic market share for the first three quarters fell from 2001's 17.9% to 12.4% and the number of tickets sold for German films from 21.4m to 14m.

Only Germany's Oscar candidate Nowhere In Africa (Nirgendwo In Afrika) by Caroline Link and Knallharte Jungs by Granz Henman passed the 1m admissions threshold by the end of September, although the German-UK co-production Resident Evil will soon join the admission millionaires' club as well.