Boosted by its prime Saturday evening night slot, the world premiere of Nigel Cole's Calendar Girls has proven to be the biggest draw so far at the Locarno International Film Festival.

A staggering 9,500 festival-goers packed into Locarno's Piazza Grande town square to watch the film, where seating is officially only available for 7,500.

Director Nigel Cole was on hand with actor/co-screenwriter Tim Firth and the "real" Calendar girls Angela Baker, Tricia Stewart and Christine Clansy to present the film to what turned out to be a highly appreciative audience.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who was on holiday at the time, was one of a string of senior politicians to attend the screening. Others included Swiss President Pascal Couchepin, Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and David Streiff, director of the Federal Office for Culture, as well as Germany's State Minister for Culture Christine Weiss.