A combination of an ailing economy, inclement weather and the local industry's home-made crises resulted in German admissions slipping by 5% from 2001's record attendances of 163.1m to 154.5m.
Box-office revenues fell by 3.3% from Euros954.2m to Euro 922.7m for 2002, according to figures compiled by Nielsen EDI.
The downward trend had already been identified by the German Federal Film Board (FFA) in November when it released its figures for the first nine months showing that box office had dropped 3% from 2001's Euro 692.9m to Euro 672.1m.
At the time, the FFA predicted that fourth quarter releases such as Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Die Another Day, and The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers would effect a turnaround to save the day. Indeed, Harry Potter registered over Euros54m, The Two Towers over Euros40m and the latest James Bond picture over Euros28m by the end of the year.
However, industry observers suggest that it would be more appropriate to compare the 2002 box office with the performance of 1999 (149m) or 2000 (152.2m) rather than 2001, which had the breakout blockbuster Manitou's Shoe (Der Schuh Des Manitu) clocking up over 11m admissions.
In fact, the local industry sorely missed not having a big hit like Manitou this year: the share for local films more than halved from 2001's 18.4% to only 9.1%. Here, three releases from the top German independent distributor Constantin led the way - family entertainment Bibi Blocksberg (Euros9.6m), Germany's Oscar entry Nowhere In Afrika (Nirgendwo In Afrika, Euros7.8m) and teen comedy More Ants In The Pants (Knallharte Jungs, Euros5.8m).
In terms of distributor market share, Warner ousted UIP from the top spot by increasing its 2001 share from 18.8% to 23.9% thanks to such releases as Potter and Rings as well Oceans Eleven. Fox celebrated an impressive comback by more than doubling its share from 7.8% to 17.8% thanks to blockbusters such as Ice Age, Star Wars Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones, Die Another Day and Minority Report.
UIP slipped from a 20.5% market share to 13.8% with its most successful film in 2002, A Beautiful Mind, just missing out on the year's Top Ten at No. 11. Columbia TriStar's fortunes revived from the disappointing 5.6% in 2001 to 13.6% thanks to the action trio of Spider Man, Men In Black II and XXX.
The German outpost of Buena Vista only had one film in the year's Top Ten - Monster, Inc, at No. 10 - and saw its market share slide back to the level of 2000 with 10.4% (compared to 15.1% in 2001).
Constantin remained Germany's leading independent distributor - with an 8.2% market share. Its crucial importance for the local industry was made all the clearer by the fact that the Munich-based producer-distributor had handled the release of the top seven titles in 2002's Top Ten German films.