The German box office increased year-on-year in 2011 but didn’t crack the elusive billion-euro mark. Martin Blaney reports on the year’s highlights

When the German Federal Film Board (FFA) reveals the official annual statistics on the eve of this year’s Berlinale, 2011 is set to go down as the best year ever for the German box office. Still, the final result was not quite what exhibitors and distributors had been looking for.

Their target was to crack the €1bn, or $1.3bn, box-office threshold — but despite the popularity of 3D blockbusters such as Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, provisional figures collated by Rentrak at the beginning of January showed that box-office turnover had increased year-on-year by 3.8% to only $1.2bn (€913.5m). However, the FFA’s tally is traditionally around $52.6m (€40m) more than Rentrak’s figure.

2011 is set to go down as the best ever year for the German box office

Leading the list of distributors for the third year in a row was Warner Bros with a market share of 19.5% and three top 10 releases including the year’s number one film, Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($73.7m), and the top local film, Kokowaah ($39.2m) by Til Schweiger, in third position.

Paramount Pictures International (PPI), the newest kid on the block among the US majors in Germany, clinched a 12.5% share to take second position thanks to blockbusters including Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, Puss In Boots and Kung Fu Panda 2. However, PPI had a disappointing response to its much-anticipated release of Tim Fehlbaum’s German apocalyptic thriller Hell, which failed to reach $1.3m (€1m) in takings.

Meanwhile, Herbert Kloiber’s Munich-based Concorde held onto its position as the leading German independent distributor for the second year running with a market share of 6.12%. The latest Twilight instalment, Breaking Dawn — Part One, produced around 40% of Concorde’s takings for the year, but the company also scored success with arthouse releases such as the German-Turkish comedy Almanya — Willkommen In Deutschland and Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris.

Constantin’s plans for three blockbusters opening last autumn in quick succession — 3D films The Three Musketeers and Vicky And The Treasure Of The Gods plus Hotel Lux — did not translate into booming business. Paul WS Anderson’s retelling of the Alexandre Dumas swashbuckler just managed to scrape past the psychological barrier of 1 million admissions, while Vicky’s 3D adventures sold only 1.73 million tickets, far below the 5 million for 2009’s first Vicky film. And Michael ‘Bully’ Herbig’s ‘serious’ comic role in Hotel Lux was not appealing to his fans brought up on the likes of Manitou’s Shoe.

At the same time, Senator Film made a spirited comeback with a 2.43% share, ranking at number 10 thanks largely to The King’s Speech, which posted $21.6m (€16.7m) of Senator’s annual gross of $28.3m (€21.9m).

The next multi-talented big draw appears to be Matthias Schweighöfer

As in previous years, German cinema’s box-office fortunes seemed linked to the presence of a Til Schweiger film on the release schedule. His latest rom-com, Kokowaah, grossed $39.2m (€30.3m) for Warner Bros in the first half of the year. And he was also one of the draws in another Warner hit, Simon Verhoeven’s Mannerherzen sequel, which took $12.1m (€9.4m) in the autumn.

The next multi-talented draw appears to be 30-year-old actor Matthias Schweighöfer, who followed the example of Schweiger and juggled the hats of producer, director and lead actor for his directorial debut What A Man, which brought $16.2m (€12.5m) into co-producer Fox’s coffers.

In mid-December, Schweighöfer was back on screens in Universal’s release of Detlev Buck’s Woman In Love. The comedy had already taken $11.2m (€8.7m) by New Year’s Eve. Schweiger, watch your back.