Argentina ticket sales expected to drop

BUENOS AIRES — Though attendance held up during the first half of 2001, the B.O. outlook for the rest of the year in Argentina is grim.

Argentines purchased 16 million tickets through June, on par with the same period last year, according to ACNielsen EDI. Twelve-month ticket sales totaled 33.5 million in 2000.

“We’re not going to make it,” to those attendance levels, predicts Dario Perticone, director of operations at film production outfit Patagonik, whose backers include local conglom Clarin, Spain’s Telefonica Media and Buena Vista Intl.

Consumers are increasingly skipping the latest hits, concerned that political problems could prolong an economic slump already in its third year, Perticone says. Depressed wages, rising unemployment and a recent tax hike on tickets are also functioning as deterrents.

American films have commanded 82% of the market so far in 2001, led by “Meet the Parents” and “What Women Want,” which sold 897,000 and 867,500 tickets, respectively, through June.

Argentine films have lagged. Their six-month share of tickets sold slipped to 8% in 2001 compared with 12% a year earlier.

Only one local pic made the top 10 in the first half of this year: Eduardo Mignogna’s “La Fuga” (The Escape), a prison-break drama released last month, had sold 753,000 tickets through June 30, besting both “The Mummy Returns” and “Pearl Harbor.”

Despite its success, “La Fuga” has fallen short of last year’s top local hits.

Juan Jose Jusid’s “Papa es un Idolo” (Dad Is an Idol), a father-and-son comedy, topped the 2000 homegrown list with 1.4 million tickets sold, followed by Fabian Bielinsky’s crime caper “Nueve Reinas” (Nine Queens) with 1.26 million tickets sold.

Despite a bevy of new Argentine pics slated for release, local filmmakers will be hard- pressed to match the 19% share of the market they commanded for all of last year.

Argentines are expected to ration their movie-going coin in favor of upcoming Hollywood pics like “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” and “Planet of the Apes.”

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