BUENOS AIRES — Argentinians flocked to the theaters last year, helping improve profits for a sector bashed by the nation’s 2001-02 economic crisis.

Admissions surged 27% to 42 million in 2004 from 33 million in 2003, pushing up box office receipts by 45% to $90 million from $64 million, according to industry data. It was the strongest year of ticket sales since the 1980s.

Hollywood films dominated with 80% of ticket sales, helped by wide releases — on 120-150 of the nation’s 1,000 screens — and huge marketing efforts. “Shrek 2” led with 3.1 million admissions, followed by “The Passion of the Christ” with 2.8 million admission and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” with 1.9 million admissions.

Even so, homegrown pix from young and veteran filmmakers had strong pull, fetching 6 million admissions, or 14% of total ticket sales. That was the strongest year since 2000’s 19%.

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Leading the local offering was Jose Luis Massa’s animated epic “Patoruzito” with 2.1 million admissions — the third-highest of all films. Other big draws were Juan Jose Campanella’s working-class drama “La Luna de Avellaneda” (The Moon of Avellaneda) Raul Rodriguez Peila’s crime thriller “Peligrosa obsesion” (Dangerous Obsession).

Ezequiel Crupnicoff’s pop-band flick “Erreway: 4 caminos” (Erreway: 4 Roads) followed with 850,000 admissions.

The surge in filmgoing is largely a reflection of an improving economy, which expanded 8.3% in 2004 and 8.8% in 2003 after a 1998-2002 recession.

But the surge in local production and exhibition — some 70 films screened nationwide, up from 44 in 2002 and 53 in 2003 — was helped by government measures implemented last year. These included screen quotas for homegrown films, the settlement of unpaid film subsidies and the reduction of some import duties on filmmaking materials.