"An ambivalent cinema year" was how Rolf Baehr, the outgoing board member of the German Federal Film Board (FFA), described 2003 on presenting Germany's official annual box office figures yesterday.

While the box-office success of such local films as Good Bye, Lenin!, The Miracle Of Bern and Luther saw German films' market share climb from 2002's 11.9% to 17.5% with 25.3m tickets sold, overall box office figures were not so encouraging.

Total admissions fell by 9.1% to 149m and cinema revenues slipped by 11.5% to Euros 850m, Euros 110m less than 2002.

According to Baehr, five key factors caused the downturn: the general economic recession, the summer heatwave, German consumers' love affair with DVDs, increasing film piracy, and the absence - particularly, in the first half of 2003 - of attractive US releases.

In addition, the downward trend was affected by a drop in ticket prices of 2.7% - an average of 16 cents - to Euros 5.70.

Baehr, who hands over to successor Peter Dinges on April 1 after over three decades at the FFA, voiced "great hopes about the fortunes of German cinema in 2004. There is a great range of genres in the films coming through this year with Michael "Bully" Herbig's comedy (T)Raumschiff Surprise, the computer animation film Back To Gaya, Erbsen Auf Halb 6, Bernd Eichinger's The Downfall and Bibi Blocksberg II."