Wellington, Auckland draw record auds

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Audiences have flocked in record numbers to the two main film festivals here, a clear signal that the appetite is still strong for quality foreign product, which is becoming scarcer in general release.

The annual festival in Wellington wrapped Sunday in the capital city with a record attendance of 63,500 — up more than 15% over last year. Attendance at the Auckland festival, which finished a week earlier, was up 6,000 to 86,000.

Festival director Bill Gosden said audiences were clearly excited by the diverse range of titles on show in the festivals, which offered patrons 120 separate programs ranging from Oscar- and Palme d’Or-winners to obscure documentaries and historical programs — including the most comprehensive ever retrospective of avant-garde pioneer Len Lye.

After a brief flourish of activity in the early ’90s, arthouse exhibitors and independent distributors have gone into something of a retreat here, cowed by the strength of major distribs’ arthouse arms, like Sony Classics and Fox Searchlight.

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