Screen International's first-quarter box office survey indicates a widening gap between international and domestic performance.

While US and Canadian revenues ran around 3% off the 2007 pace, the international tally was 30% up year-on-year.

In financial terms that means the international market was responsible for $4.28bn (71%) of the $6.5bn generated worldwide in Q1.

The figure is 93% higher than the $2.2bn from domestic markets - an astonishing number given that the recent industry of rule of thumb is that domestic takes a third and the rest of the world two thirds.

The reasons why are relatively easy to identify and follow a now well established pattern.

The clearest is the strong performance of key local films. In Germany and France, homegrown hits have contributed heavily to 46% and 22% rises respectively in box office revenues.

The weaker performance of South Korea, can conversely be attributed to the failure to match last year's local hit.


Local films increased in number and box office by 37% in China and Hong Kong, 30% in Russia, 92% in Turkey and a jaw dropping 188% in Germany.

There were also substantial gains in secondary territories such as Greece, Poland, Thailand and Sweden where its homegrown Arn - The Knight Templar played to $20m across all of Scandinavia.

Box office declines in some territories can also be attributed directly to lack of local product.

Conversely, the absence of a strong native entryfrom South Korea saw its cinema share fall 28% and cinema-going as a whole dropping by 60%. That may be a short-term effect because the most anticipated local productions are launching in the Summer.

The bigger question swirling around the rapid expansion is whether the success of international markets can be dismissed as an anomaly or should be viewed as a nascent trend that can be expected to extend reliably in future.

We have been here before. In 1994, Les Visteurs set records in France, and it was also the year of Four Weddings AndA Funeral, Germany's Der Bewegte Mann, Il Postino and Muriel's Wedding in Australia.

Hum Aapke Hai Kaun that year became the all-time box office success (it currently ranks second adjusted for inflation) and sparked a renewed vigor for Bollywood production.

However, the following year's box office put the pin in that balloon. In the subsequent decade and a half there's been inconsistent growth internationally with major territories experiencing fits and bursts of activity; largely but not exclusively reflective of the popularity of homegrown cinema.

There are changes however since then that cannot be ignored. One is the interest of the studios in supporting local films with its distribution muscle.

And international independents are also consolidating to exploit the economies of scale.

Established names had very strong third quarters: Pathe, for example, took third place among internationaldistributors, mainly thanks to French mega-hits Welcome To The Sticks and the latest Asterix accounted.Though theplace in the chartswill not survive a blockbuster Summer, it is a sign of the importance of the Summer blockbuster.

What's also evident is the beginnings of an international talent explosion comparable to the one that began in the 1950s and continued into the '70s can be seen in every corner of the globe and already is flowering in Russia, India, France, Turkey, Denmark, Romania, Mexico and Thailand.

There's no question that films from those and other countries will have an impact on the language of film.

The bigger question mark is how widely those movies will be seen or whether wider exposure will translate into the sort of embrace that invigorates the industry and enlivens movie going.