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Cinemagoers warm to Swiss films

Ice Age 2, the most popular film in Swiss cinemas so far this year.

(Keystone / FOX, HO)

Ticket sales for the first half of 2006 are up 11.5 per cent on the previous six months and for the first time ever three Swiss films are in the domestic top ten.

Ice Age 2, a computer-animated comedy, has notched up the most ticket sales since being released in 160 of Switzerland's 323 cinemas in May and recently became the fourth film ever to sell more than a million tickets in Switzerland.

The others are Titanic (1997), Finding Nemo (2003) and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001).

Hollywood blockbusters continue their domination of Swiss cinemas. The second-largest grosser so far this year is the critically panned Da Vinci Code, Ron Howard's anaemic dramatisation of Dan Brown's global bestseller. The film version has nevertheless sold 540,000 tickets in Switzerland.

Other US films in the Swiss top ten include gay romantic drama Brokeback Mountain, heist thriller Inside Man and Mission: Impossible III, whose relative underperformance in the US was one of the reasons that Paramount and Tom Cruise recently parted company after 14 years.

Swiss films however have put in a remarkably strong performance, with three Swiss productions making it into the top ten. Grounding, a drama about the last days of the doomed national airline Swissair, came third overall and filled 367,000 seats.

Also waving the Swiss flag was romantic farce Handyman in eighth place and Vitus, a drama about a child prodigy and one of the few Swiss films to find success abroad, in tenth.

Optimistic

René Gerber, head of ProCinema, the national association of cinema and film distribution, said these figures confirm that the film industry is a "cyclical business" in which one bad year doesn't mean the start of a new trend.

2005 saw cinema attendance dip around the world and Switzerland was not spared. The public's lack of interest especially affected US films, whose portion of the market declined by ten per cent.

Gerber added that he was optimistic for the second half of 2006, with the release of several strong films such as Casino Royale, the latest Bond and the first with "Blond Bond" Daniel Craig, in November.

He also has high hopes for several Swiss films, such as Cannabis, a comedy about an anti-drugs minister who is prescribed cannabis for an eye complaint, and Die Herbstzeitlosen, a gentle comedy about a widow who turns her husband's grocery in a picturesque Emmental village into a lingerie boutique.

Both films feature the ubiquitous Hanspeter Müller-Drossaart – who also starred in Grounding – and both films will probably struggle to do well abroad, something the Federal Culture Office is desperate to encourage.

"At the moment Swiss films are booming at home and we need to make sure that they are noticed abroad as well," Micha Schiwow, head of the national film promotion organisation Swiss Films, told swissinfo.

"That's not that easy as those films which do well in Switzerland often aren't conceived with foreign markets in mind."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The system of public funding for the Swiss cinema, covering all stages of the production and promotion of a film, depends on credits allocated by parliament. This was set at about SFr23 million ($18 million) for 2004-2007.

The remainder - SFr12-15 million - comes directly from the Federal Culture Office's cinema section.

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Key facts

Cinema ticket figures climbed from around 7.5 million in the second half of 2005 (roughly one visit per person) to 8.4 million in the first half of 2006, a rise of 11.5%.
The box office for the same periods rose from SFr108.5 million ($88 million) to SFr122 million.
Of the tickets sold, 61.5% were for US productions, another year-on-year loss for Hollywood.
Swiss films were in second place with 11.6% – almost six times the 2005 figure of 1.9% – followed by France (10%), Britain (4.5%) and Germany (3%).

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