SANTIAGO — Though theatrical attendance in Chile was up just 0.5% in 1993, hitting nearly 5 million tickets, the news cheered the industry execs since it reversed a downward trend ongoing since 1988.

(Attendance in Santiago — about 65% of Chile’s total — had dropped from a weekly average of 137,000 in 1988 to 73,500 in ’92, but was up to 73,896 last year.)

But that slight rise in attendance was reversed in January after exhibs boosted firstrun B.O. prices a hefty 22% in December, jacking up antes to $ 5.75 in prime sites, $ 3.45 in others.

The B.O. hike resulted in a 19% attendance drop in January.

Due to its longtime stable economy, Chile has become one of the prime investment ares. A six-screen, 1,250-seat multiplex half-owned by the Texas-based Cinemark circuit bowed last Sept. 9. In its first 20 weeks of operation, it culled an average of 10,800 patrons per week, a tidy 14.6% of Santiago’s total.

Partnered in the multiplex is Chile’s largest, and only, film conglom, Conate , which with subsid CCN runs 35 hardtops in Chile, 23 of them in Santiago.

Banners’ topper, Jose Daire, said a second downtown complex is being planned in conjunction with Cinemark and that within two years he expects to have five multiplexes in operation.

As well as exhib operations, Daire also owns a post-production facility in Buenos Aires (Profilms) and a lab (Photomec). In Santiago, Conate rents out studio space to TV and has a TV post-production facility, homevid distrib company Video Chile and the Eros chain of 50 homevideo stores. Another 12 Blockbuster Video outlets are also run by Conate. As a theatrical distrib, Conate releases Buena Vista product and indie pickups.

Of Chile’s theatrical gross of $ 4.62 million last year, Warner Bros. bagged 26.2%, followed by Universal (21.3%), Col TriStar (17.4%), Buena Vista (14.9%), Par (10.48%) and Fox (7.39%).

Meanwhile, local feature production got a shot in the arm with the founding of Cine Chile S.A., a consortium of 28 filmmakers who’ve managed to get a $ 2.4 million credit line from the government bank. Cine Chile is financing up to 60% of local, low-budget films, each costing an average of $ 600,000.

Of the first two pix opening, Gustavo Graef Marino’s “Johnny Cien Pesos” made a good showing, with 85,000 admissions in Santiago; second, Leo Kocking’s “Entrega Total,” was a disaster with barely 7,700 tix sold.

But the jury’s still out on the Cine Chile project. Given the size of the local market, the deciding factorswill be how much foreign financing is obtained by producers and, more importantly, whether the films will generate revenue offshore.

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