Australia's gross box office was $675.5m (A$866.609m) last year, a rise of 6% over 2005 and the second-highest year on record according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA).

The best year to date for earnings was 2004 when $707.2m (A$907.2) was spent on cinema tickets. This figure plunged by about $90m in the following year.

Because of ticket-price fluctuations, the best year on record for admissions is 2001, however, when 92,500m tickets were sold. The MPDAA will calculate the number of admissions in 2006 within the next few days.

'One of the most pleasing aspects of the 2006 results is the broad range of films that have recorded strong results,' said MPDAA chair Mike Selwyn of the results.

'Whilst blockbuster releases such as Pirates Of The Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Da Vinci Code and Casino Royale, and family films such as Ice Age 2, Cars and Over The Hedge could have been expected to do well, it is worth noting the success of films such as The Devil Wears Prada, Borat and Brokeback Mountain with their appeal to very different audiences.'

Another pleasing result, Selwyn added, was the success of Australian films commercially and critically. He said distributors were looking forward to 2007 being a strong year for local films.

As previously reported, the 22 Australian features and seven documentaries released in 2006 took about A$40 million of the total, or about 4.5%. This is higher than the three previous years. Australia 's best percentage ever was 23.5% in 1986.

As usual the MPDAA picked copyright theft as the biggest challenge ahead, but the year is off to a good start because the first week of January showed the second highest weekly box office figure ever.

The biggest performers earned over $15.6m (A$20m) each and they were Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest, The Da Vinci Code, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, Casino Royale and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Gross box office has risen on the previous year, for the 24th time in the last 30 years.