Admissions and box-office takings in German cinemas fell year-on-year by 11.3% and 12.5% respectively in the first half of 2003, according to the latest figures from the country's Federal Film Board (FFA).

However, German films recorded their highest market share -16.1% - for six years thanks to the huge success of Wolfgang Becker's Good Bye, Lenin!

The Berlin-based FFA blamed the 'extraordinary state of the weather', 'weaker films', the economic situation and digital piracy for the slump in admissions.

FFA board member Rolf Baehr pointed out that cinema attendance had also contracted by 9.3% in France in the first half of 2003 as well in the USA where a 6% decrease had been posted.

"Digital piracy has become a serious problem", Baehr said, "especially in a highly populated region like North Rhine-Westphalia where there are completely new distribution structures on the black market for top titles".

He added that the anti-piracy body GVU (Gesellschaft zur Verfolgung von Urheberrechtsverletzungen) had estimated that the film and video industry in Germany had lost over Euros 350m in revenue in 2002 through film piracy.

According to the FFA's statistics, only one new multiplex opened between January 1 and June 30, bringing the total to 140 centres with 1,271 screens and seating for 312,243.

Although this multiplex seating represents only 26.1% of all of the cinema seats in Germany, the multiplexes attracted 44.1% of the overall attendance and 47% of the ticket revenue for the first six months.