For Israel, animation big in 2007

Israel box office

Israeli auds showed their love of Hollywood animated fare and local-language productions as ticket sales bumped up last year.

Admissions reached 9.5 million in Israel in 2007, up 5.5% from previous year’s figures, according to a preliminary end-of-the-year report issued by the Israeli Cinema Assn.

Final figures may be as high as 9.8 million admissions, edging this year’s numbers closer to the 2004 banner year, the last time Israeli cinemas sold just over 10 million tickets.

This is the second consecutive year of rising ticket sales. In 2006, there was an improvement of 5% after a slump in 2005.

Movie ticket prices in Israel remained unchanged in 2006 and 2007 at $8.75 a ticket. However, many Israeli moviegoers, voicing their outrage on Internet sites, say this price is too high in relation to local salaries.

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Interestingly, although movie attendance in Israel has been rising steadily during the past two years, ticket sales for Hollywood movies have remained nearly the same for three straight years. The fluctuating numbers reflect the ebb and tide of ticket sales to home-grown movies.

A chart published in the Haaretz daily newspaper makes this clear: Hollywood movies (and some other foreign language films) have sold a steady amount of 8.3 million to 8.5 million tickets annually since 2004.

But when Israeli films do well, a rise in ticket sales is noticed. In 2007, Israeli films sold just over 1.2 million tickets.

In fact, this is the first time that four local movies appear on the top 10 annual box office chart. Also worth noting is the enormous local success for the German film “The Lives of Others,” that raked in 200,000 admissions and beat out Hollywood hits such as “The Simpsons Movie,” “Transformers,” “Spider-Man 3” and “The Bourne Ultimatum.”

2007 saw the launch of the first Imax 3-D theater in Israel to play feature films. Nearly a quarter of “Beowulf’s” $500,000 earnings were culled from this single 600-seat theater.

While two more Imax 3-D screens are scheduled to be built in 2008, Israel is still behind its European and American counterparts in the digital arena.

In general, Israeli distributors — most of them privately held mom-and-pop shops — refuse to publish box office figures (only the biggest hits are bragged about). The following list of 2007’s box office hits in Israel was compiled through data supplied by international distributors who are represented by local licensees, and producers of Israeli movies.

1. “Ratatouille,” $3.08 million

2. “Shrek the Third,” $2.76 million.

3. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” $2.4 million

4. “Beaufort” (Israel), $2.2 million

5. “Bee Movie,” $1.9 million

6. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” $1.7 million

7. “The Band’s Visit” (Israel), $1.69 million

8. “The Secrets” (Israel), $1.63 million

9. “The Lives of Others,” $1.57 million

10. “Noodle” (Israel), $1.57 million