Total attendance rose 5.6% from last year

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s film industry chamber on Thursday announced measures to boost the box office potential of local pics next year, following a rise in the perf of local films in 2007 that helped set a new overall box office record.

Total attendance rose 5.6% from last year to 174.2 million, while sales were up 7.9% to 6.5 billion pesos ($607 million), said Miguel Angel Davila, president of industry org Canacine.

Mexican films had their best year since 2002, accounting for 8.3% of total ticket sales, up from 5.2% last year, while attendance for local films was up more than 61% from 2006 to 13.8 million.

Davila, also CEO of Mexico City-based exhib Cinemex, said months of discussions between exhibitors, distributors and producers had resulted in measures to help local films, including a commitment from exhibs to run more trailers, guaranteed minimum two-week runs, as well as an increased percentage of ticket sales for films from first- and second-time directors.

“We want to create a bigger space for Mexican films,” said Davila.

Local producers have tried for years to gain an edge as foreign titles flood the market. Monica Lozano, head of Mexico’s independent producers association, said the exhibitor’s guarantee to keep the same number of prints out for two weeks would be a “huge help” to independent local productions.

“We don’t have the money for big publicity drives,” Lozano said. “We need word of mouth to build up.”

Davila said exhibs and producers were still pushing major distribs to change the national release date from Friday to Thursday

Local film boom was largely sparked by $11 million indie horror film “Km 31,” which became the third highest grossing local film ever, and two films produced by Hollywood studios, Colombia TriStar’s “Charm School” ($7 million) and Disney’s “Cansad de besar sapos” ($6.8 million). Indie distrib Gussi-produced toon “La Leyenda de la nahuala” is still in theaters and holds the No. 4 spot, with nearly $4 million.

Local balance is likely to get a further boost from heist thriller “Sultanes del sur,” a co-production between Warner, “Km 31″ producers Lemon Films, and Spain’s Filmax, which bows Dec. 18th.

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