U.S. titles help spike ticket sales in first half of year

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina B.O. surged 16% to 19.5 million admissions in the first half of 2006 from 16.8 million a year earlier, with U.S. titles outpacing local fare by a wider-than-normal margin.

Higher ticket prices, driven by 12% inflation, helped first semester grosses rise 34% to $51.1 million from $38.2 million a year earlier, according to Nielsen EDI Argentina and Dis-Service data.

Exhibitors said a diversity of titles helped bolster attendance. Also, distribs brought forward releases to avert the slump during the World Cup.

The biggest draw was “Ice Age: The Meltdown” with 2.54 million admissions. “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was next with 2.09 million and “The Da Vinci Code” third with 1.57 million. “X-Men: The Last Stand” sold 730,000 tickets.

Hollywood snared 88% of admissions, up from 85% in the first half of 2005.

The 25 local releases fetched a paltry 4.2% of admissions, down from a 6%-7% average in previous years. This has sparked film authorities to review screen quota regulations, which require exhibs to show local pics for a longer period of time and on more screens.

Top three local titles in the first six months were Adrian Caetano’s Cannes-competing political thriller “Cronica de una fuga” (Chronicle of an Escape), Daniel Burman’s father-and-son drama “Derecho de familia” (Family Law) and Marcelo Pineyro’s job-interview expose “El metodo” (The Method).

Other local pics, however, like Javier Vazquez’s docu “Amando a Maradona” (Loving Maradona) about soccer legend Diego Maradona, and Eliseo Subiela’s love story “Lifting de corazon” had disappointing results.

Exhibs say attendance should continue a surge that began after the World Cup, as families flock to theaters during the July-August school holidays.

Indeed, ticket sales nearly doubled to 1.04 million during the July 13-16 period from the previous Thursday-Sunday period when the World Cup final was played. Local beach laffer “Baneros III, todopodorosos” (Bathers III, Superpowers) led, followed by big budget imports like “Cars,” “Over the Hedge,” “Superman Returns” and local animated titles “El Raton Perez” (Perez, the Mouse”) and “Patoruzito, la gran aventura” (Patoruzito, the Great Adventure).

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