Cinemaattendance figures in Argentina dropped by an estimated 24.5% in the first halfof 2005, according to provisional figures from Nielsen EDI and Dis-Service.

The period saw some 16.8m admissions as opposed to 22.26mover the same period in 2004, the biggest year for Argentine cinema in almosttwo decades. However, audiences are still up from 2003 by 1.5m admissions.

Hollywood blockbusters recorded an 85.4% share of themarket, local productions logged 7.1%, while European films stood at 6.5%.

The fall in attendances particularly affected Argentinefilms. The 26 titles released in the first half of the year saw sales drop to1.2 million from 1.45m in 2004. That figure will be more than doubled, however,by the success of local comedy Papá Se Volvio Loco (Daddy's Gone Crazy)during the Argentine winter holidays in July (more than 1.3m admissions sofar).

And other upcoming high-profile local releases includingFabian Bielinsky's The Aura, Eduardo Mignogna's El Viento (The Wind),Damián Szifron's Tiempo De Valientes (Time for Braves), and TristánBauer's Iluminados Por El Fuego (Enlightened By Fire), should see localfilms probably reach the 14.2 % market share they logged in 2004. However,admissions total are unlikely to finish as strong as 2004, which saw an 18-yearhigh of 42 million.

Only four films have attracted over one million viewers sofar this year, a list led by Madagascar, War Of The Worlds, Papá Se VolvioLoco and Meet the Fockers. Olivier Hirschbiegel's Downfall,at 270,000 admissions, is the most successful of the 19 European filmsreleased.

Lastyear's numbers were bolstered by such first-half hits as The Passion of theChrist with 2.8m admissions and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of theKing with 2m.

With theArgentine economy recovering 9% in 2003, 8,4% in 2004 and an estimated 6% in2005, film attendance rose more than 50% in the last two years. The four majorforeign exhibitors (Hoyts General Cinema, Village, Cinemark and Showcase) arecurrently on a programme of building new multiplexes: Argentina has only 980screens for a population of 37 million people.