One of Germany's most prominent film industry figures has countered talk of a national cinema crisis with a prediction of rapid and dramatic growth and a call for the centralisation of the country's film studios.

Writing in the German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Germany's general manager for Columbia Tristar, Juergen Schau (pictured), hit out at gloom-merchants speaking of a German cinema crisis after last week's insolvency of major exhibition chain UFA cinema and proposed a centralisation of the management of German film studios to make them more internationally competitive.

"Because of the present bankruptcies the impression arises that cinema is in a crisis," Schau observed, urging that the industry "should not make the mistake of 'no longer seeing the wood for the trees'." In fact, only 1,234 of Germany's 4,500-plus screens are in multiplexes - the predominant number (3,300) being traditional cinemas run by medium-sized companies.

"Of course, it is regrettable that a few companies have overstretched themselves financially and now have to be streamlined," Schau wrote. "Despite this, cinema is a growth market with a very active target group." "When I see what big, attractive films will still be coming to Germany this year I am very confident that we will soon have reached the industry goal of 200 million admissions per year," Schau argued, predicting that this target would be reached next year (2003).

At the same time, however, he expressed concern about German cinema ticket prices which had risen following the change to the Euro. "As the cinema competes with other leisure activities, one should be measured in one's handling of prices," Schau observed.

Turning to Germany's film studios, Schau stated that they needed to be managed centrally to have any chance of attracting major productions. "It is necessary to speak with 'one voice' as is already the case in England, Italy, the Czech Republic or Australia. If we want to be involved in major international productions, we must also behave in a correspondingly professional manner".