A masked and armed man barricaded himself in a German multiplex cinema with dozens of people inside before being killed by police, officials said.

No hostages were injured at the complex in the western town of Viernheim, 75km south of Frankfurt, Hesse state Interior Minister Peter Beuth said on Thursday.

"The assailant moved through the cinema complex, according to the information we have now, and appeared confused," he said.

"There were hostages inside and there was a struggle [with police] until in the end he was dead."

Beuth added: "We have no information that anyone [among the cinema-goers] was injured."

A police spokeswoman in the nearby city of Darmstadt confirmed that "all the hostages were unhurt and led out of the building".

Initial reports had referred to dozens of wounded people and several shots fired, and police dispatched heavily armed special units to the site equipped with helmets and bulletproof vests.

"There was an acute threat situation," Viernheim police said in a statement.

Later accounts said that several people had been hurt by tear gas during the police raid but this was also denied.

Mass shootings are relatively rare in Germany, where gun ownership is prevalent but firearm sales and storage are subject to strict regulation.

In the worse case in recent years, 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer went on a rampage with his father's gun at his former school in 2009, killing 15 people before turning the weapon on himself.

Source: Agencies