The latest James Bond film – directed by a Swiss and featuring a home-grown baddie – helped give a turbo boost to domestic film-going figures last year.
Provisional figures show that cinema attendance rose by 3.6 per cent on 2007. Experts believe that the outlook for 2009 is also good, especially as the economic crisis begins to bite and people look for cheap, escapist entertainment.
"With 14,692,184 admissions in 2008, we counted half a million spectators (3.56 per cent) more than in 2007," Rene Gerber, head of ProCinema, the national film distribution association, told swissinfo.
The figures were driven up by two films, ProCinema revealed. The most popular was the new James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, directed by Marc Forster, which attracted almost 776,000 people, according to statistics released on Saturday.
The film had a huge red carpet premiere in November near Lucerne, which created a lot of excitement, despite the non-appearance of 007, actor Daniel Craig, who was brought down by the flu.
Forster was there, as was Anatole Taubman, who plays the evil sidekick in the film and, who, much to the delight of domestic audiences, was the first Bond baddie to speak some Swiss German.
Die hard Bond fans
James Bond – half Swiss on his mother's side in the books - always does well in Switzerland, says film critic and scholar Christian Jungen.
"There is no other country where there are so many people going to see a James Bond as in Switzerland," Jungen told swissinfo.
"Compared with the size of the country, we are far ahead of the United States, Italy or neighbouring Austria where the film was partly shot."
Hot on the secret agent's heels, however, was the surprise French hit comedy, Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, with more than 713,000 cinemagoers.
This comic tale of cultural clashes between the grim French North and the sunny South has broken all box office records in France. Hollywood has bought the rights for a remake.
The film was highly popular in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, but also became the most well attended French movie in the German-speaking part since the 1960s.
"Part of the success of Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, which by the way the producers, when they saw it for the first time, thought it wouldn't do very well abroad because they thought it was too French, is that people wanted to see why it was such a big hit in France," explained Jungen.
Swiss cinema did not do so well. Its market share dropped to 3.1 per cent, compared with 5.38 per cent in 2007. The most favoured film was "Bergauf, Bergab", a documentary about Alpine farmers.
This, says Jungen, was party because of an absence of hits, such as "Die Herbstzeitlosen" (Late Bloomers). Usually one big film alone is enough to boost figures.
But Jungen believes that film popularity alone does not explain the box office boom for 2008.
"A crisis is always a good time for cinema, because it's cheap, at around SFr15-16 ($12.8-13.7), compared with other activities, such as going out to dinner and people like to get distracted and forget about their everyday life," Jungen said.
This situation could continue into 2009. Statistics for the first six weeks of this year for the German-speaking part of Switzerland already show a 15.4 per cent rise on the same period in 2008, said Jungen.
ProCinema is also hoping that even more people will go to the movies this year.
"So far the most successful film in 2009 is 'Australia' with more than 200,000 admissions," said Gerber.
As in other countries, Hollywood remains king of the Swiss cinema, with the lion's share of the market. And it looks like a blockbusting 2009: among the films to look forward to are the new Harry Potter and Ice Age 3.
swissinfo, Isobel Leybold-Johnson
Top 10 films 2008
1. James Bond – Quantum of Solace
2. Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis
3. Mamma Mia!
4. Madagascar Escape 2 Africa
5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
6. Kung Fu Panda
9. The Dark Knight
10. Sex and the City
Source: ProCinema, provisional figures for 2008
Top 10 Swiss films 2008
1. Bergauf, Bergab
3. Der Freund
5. Schönheiten des Alpsteins
6. Marcello, Marcello
7. La Forteresse
8. Nomad's Land
9. Happy New Year
10. Bird's Nest – Herzog & De Meuron in China
Source: ProCinema, provisional figures for 2008
Swiss production scene
There were 73 production houses in Switzerland in 2007. Their central role is to ask for funds and manage the film investments.
Many are small – 47 companies last year were in charge of a one project, from large coproductions to small documentary films.
In 2007 only seven production companies received more than SFr1 million ($920,000) from the Federal Culture Office for 27 different projects. The culture office invests SFr20 million in film production, of which half goes to art house productions.