Polish box office rises 3.7%

Admissions climb 2%

WARSAW — Poland generated a record box office gross of 478 million zloty ($195 million) last year, up 3.7% on 2006, when some $188 million was taken at theaters.

Admissions were up 2% on 2006, according to website boxoffice.pl, with 32.7 million admissions recorded.

The highest ever admissions were in 2004 with 33.4 million tickets sold but that produced a much lower dollar gross as local prices were cheaper and the zloty/dollar rate higher.

The rise in box office last year reflect rising living standards and a growth in the network of multiplexes in the central European country.

The expansion eastwards of the European Union in recent years — enabling millions of Poles to work abroad in Britain and elsewhere — also appears to be playing a part in pulling Poland out of an economic trough.

Figures released last week by the Polish Central Bank said that the two million Poles who left the country to work abroad had sent home some $6 billion.

Hollywood blockbusters, children’s films and Polish comedies were the 2007’s top billers at Polish screens.

“Shrek the Third” pulled in 3.3 million admissions, “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” attracted 1.1 million and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” accounted for just over a million, as did cartoon comedy “Ratatouille.” “Bee Movie” was seen by 760,000.

Polish comedies proved a big hit with bad press notices having no apparent effect on viewers: male bonding comedy of errors “Testosteron” and romantic comedy “Dlaczego Nie!” saw admissions of between 800,000 and 1.3 million.

Polish producers keen to ride the wave have announced plans to roll out at least six new romantic movies this year.

Poland’s most famous director Andrzej Wajda’s highbrow war atrocity movie “Katyn” sold 2.7 million tickets, although organized school and army barrack trips to a must-see historical film about the massacre of the Polish officer corps by the Soviets in 1940 and subsequent cover-up, played a part in its success.

Eastern Europe’s new wave of critically acclaimed arthouse movies proved box office flops despite festival awards.

Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes winner, abortion drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” — a controversial story for Catholic Poland — attracted just 26,000 viewers. Gritty Bosnian war drama, the 2006 Berlinale Golden Bear winner, “Grbavica” by Jasmina Zbanic, sold just 16,000.

Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-winning “Letters from Iwo Jima” had 12,000 admissions and Michael Winterbottom’s acclaimed “Road to Guantanamo” 3,500.

Such titles suffer from the lack of arthouse cinemas in Poland and the fact that multiplexes tend only to screen crowd pullers, industry observers say.