Sales as Czech cinemas were at $66.9m (CZK 1.2bn) in 2007, the highest-grossing year ever at Czech box offices.

The sales represent a 20% increase on 2006. Admissions were at 12.8m, up 11% from 11.5m in 2006; the Czech Republic has a population of 10.2m. Average ticket price grew 3%.

The 2007 results reflect a growth in sales which has been constant with the exception of a sharp downturn in 2005, when sales dropped 23% from the previous year.

Local experts agree that much of the success is owing to strong local titles. Of the top 10 highest grossing films, five were Czech. Two exceptionally successful Czech films from Oscar laureates topped the charts. Jan Sverak's Empties earned $6.9m (CZK 124.3m) on 1.25m admissions, while Jiri Menzel's I Served The King Of England made $4.5m (CZK 81.3m) on 849,078 admissions.

In addition to strong product, David Horacek, general manager of operations for exhibitor Palace Cinemas, also points to the strategic release of Czech titles in spring and autumn when the films had less competition from US releases. Poor weather also helped keep audiences returning to the cinema, Horacek says.

Andrea Metcalfe is COO of AQS, a leading independent acquisition and production company which distributes films through its subsidiary Bioscop/Magic Box. She points out that there will be nearly twice as many Czech titles release in 2008 than in 2007, thanks to boosts in state funding in recent years. 'But only a few will be successful,' Metcalfe says. 'Nobody can predict which ones.'

The increased number of Czech titles means that local films will increasingly need to compete with the major studios' product and with each other, says Jan Bradac, general manager of distributor Falcon: 'There is a rule which becomes hidden sometimes even to business -- more films doesn't mean more money to spend by the customer.'

Bradac says that Czech consumers are already suffering in an inflationary market, which could cut into their willingness to spend at the box office. Furthermore, VAT on cinema tickets leapt from 5% to 9% on Jan 1, which means some multiplex tickets will start selling for about $10 - CZK 169. Bradac says it is too early in the year to see what effect the price hike will have.

Bradac expect the trend to continue in 2008 but points out a number of factors that could harm growth: The multiplex market continues to expand, but some markets, namely Prague, are already overloaded with screens.

Experts are cautiously optimistic the trend will continue, laying hopes on likely US and UK blockbusters Sex And The City: The Movie (release April 5), Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (May 22), The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (July 31), Wall-E (Aug 14), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Nov 27) and Bond 22 (Nov 6).

While the blockbusters will draw core filmgoers, the 2008 Czech crop has a wider range of appeal, although few of the new films are likely to see the success of Empties or I Served The King Of England.

Action-thriller Na vlastni nebezpeci (release Jan 24) will appeal not only to young men but also to older viewers intrigued by a rare Czech venture in genre film-making. The Loveliest Riddle (Feb 21), a fairytale from veteran Zdenek Troska, will draw on the country's growing family segment.

Nostalgia will bring audiences to comedies Takova normalni rodinka (Apr 17), based on a successful 1970s Czech TV series, and Snezenky a machri po 25 letech (Oct 2), a sequel to a popular 1981 comedy.

Other relatively strong contenders come from directors with some international renown. Country Teacher (Mar 20) is the new film from director-writer Bohdan Slama and producer Pavel Strnad, the team behind 2005 San Sebastian winner Something Like Happiness. U me dobry (May 15) is a comedy from director Jan Hrebejk, scriptwriter Petr Jarchovsky and producer Ondrej Trojan, the creative team behind 2001 Oscar nominee Divided We Fall. And Czech New Wave veteran Juraj Jakubisko will release his long-expected Bathory on July 10, possibly in a world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

In terms of market share, local distributor Falcon captured the slice of the pie in 2007, 32.9%, on the success of local films Empties, Gympl, and Medvidek, as well as Ratatouille and Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End. Bontonfilm had a 27.6% market share with top titles Shrek The Third and The Simpsons Movie. Bioscop/Magic Box came third with 13.5% market share on the strength of I Served The King Of England and Bestiar.

Top 10 films, Czech Republic, 2007
Title (origin) Distributor Admissions Sales
1 Empties (CZ) Falcon 1,254,282 $6.9m
2 I Served The King Of England (CZ) Bioscop/Magic Box 849,078 $4.5m
3 Shrek The Third (US) Bontonfilm 712,703 $3.5m
4 Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (US-UK) Warner 686,905 $3.8m
5 Gympl (CZ) Falcon 464,769 $2.5m
6 The Simpsons Movie (US) Bontonfilm 451,874 $2.4m
7 Medvidek (CZ) Falcon 440,135 $2.6m
8 Pirates Of the Caribbean: At World's End (US), Falcon 437,108 $2.5m
9 Ratatouille (US) Falcon 348,807 $1.8m
10 Bestiar (CZ) Bioscop Magic Box 265,056 $1.5m

Top 10 Czech distributors, 2007
Distributor Admissions % Sales %
Falcon 4,047,211 31.6% $22.0m 32.9%
Bontonfilm 3,677,935 28.7% $18.5m 27.6%
Bioscop/Magic Box 1,704,473 13.3% $9.0m 13.5%
Warner Bros 1,451,659 11.3% $8.1m 12.1%
Hollywood 581,529 4.5% $3.1m 4.7%
SPI 455,677 3.6% $2.3m 3.4%
Palace Pictures 194,597 1.5% $1.0m 1.6%
Blue Sky Film 173,189 1.4% $0.7m 1.1%
Pragofilm/SPI 160,197 1.2% $0.7m 1.0%
Aerofilms 68,985 0.5% $0.3m 0.5%