Argentina's deepening economic crisis is cutting heavily into the national box office, with earnings for the territory's biggest cinema operator, Village Cinemas South America, expected to be down 10% on last year, according to company president Eduardo Novilla Astrada.

In its third year of economic gloom, Argentina's cinema business - long held to be recession resistant - has been hit by people staying at home to watch the TV news for the feared devaluation of the peso. In addition, a recent hike in ticket prices (Screen Daily July 2, 2001) has further eroded the market.

Village Cinemas, which is 54% owned by Village Roadshow, 25% by New Zealand's Force Corporation with the rest held company president, Astrada, owns 70 screens at six sites. The company, which has invested $160m in multiplex and food court developments since 1996 has launched a cinema management venture in order to offset some of its losses. A six-month trial operation will see the company managing 17 independent screens in order to boost their market share and provide Village Cinemas with much-needed cash-flow.

The company owns the biggest multiplex in Argentina with 20 screens at Avellaneda and is close to a deal with French hypermarket chain Auchan, to build another 20-screen complex at its site in La Tablada.