Media Salles' Focus On Europe seminar at the Cine Expo exhibition conference in Amsterdam today, highlighted the importance of local films in creating sustainable box office growth across European territories.

Total admissions in Europe's 11 main cinema markets have risen by 41.76% from 1992, according to Media Salles' data. Significantly, European films accounted for 20% of this growth.

Not only do successful local films help buoy circuits outside of the key US summer release season, they can also attract infrequent cinemagoers back into cinemas. "In order to have a domestic box office hit, one has to target oneself to the audience that doesn't normally go to the cinema," said Nordisk Film's Tom Remlov, producer of Cool And Crazy.

In Norway, local hits Cool And Crazy and Elling accounted for more than 10% of the market in 2001, despite the fact that overall admissions were below the European average.

"It broke practically all the rules there are," said Nordisk Film's Tom Remlov, producer of Cool And Crazy. "The film has barely any narrative, no main character and it is a documentary. But there's one rule that we didn't break -- the film is unmittigatingly domestic."

Certain other European territories saw significant local success in 2001, expanding the cinemagoing market and bringing national admissions growth above European levels.

In Germany, local hits such as Der Schuh Des Manitu, notched up 11 million admissions and a box office gross of Euros 61m..

In Poland, a market which has benefited from multiplex growth since the late 1990s, local films have also been expanding the box office. In 1999, local admissions accounted for 68.4% of the annual total, thanks to home-grown hits such as Ogniem I Mieczem, Pan Tadeusz and Kilerow 2-Och. In 2001, local films claimed a 52.2% share of admissions, thanks to hits such as Quo Vadis.

"Poland is a growing market, and domestic movies are one of the major factors," said Pawel Wachnik, Ster Century's general manager, operations, Poland.

But while local films can see phenomenal success in their home box office, success abroad - even in neighbouring territories - can prove elusive.

"West Europeans still do not like to see each other's films," said Joachim Wolff, vice president, Media Salles and chairman of the Netherlands Cinematographic Federation. "With exceptions, we just do not want our neighbour's films."

According to Wolff, market shares of non-domestic European films has dropped from 11.27% in 1992 to 10.16% in 2000. US product still dominates outside of a cache of local hits.