Cinema attendance in France is expected to reach a record high in 2000, according to film body the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC), partly because of the success of exhibitors' loyalty card schemes.

The CNC found that admissions have risen 16% during the first nine months of 2000 and could reach a record 176 million for the year as a whole, compared to 155 million in 1999 and 170.5 million in 1998.

As a result, CNC's global budget for 2001 - which partly depends on the French box office through an 11% levy on each ticket sold - will also increase by $33.2m (FFr250m) to $412m (FFr3.1bn). Of this amount, $34.6m (FFr260m) will be set aside to strengthen three lines of funding: script development, short films and arthouse theatres.

According to the CNC, UGC theatres have registered a 25% boost in attendance in Paris since the operator launched its loyalty pass UGC Illimite in March 2000, compared to an average 10% rise for other theatres. Consequently the CNC support to Paris' 35 independent venues will rise from $1.2m (FFr9m) to $1.5m (FFr11m) in 2001.

Loyalty passes have so far been too successful for the process to reversed, but French culture minister Catherine Tasca is expected to soon announce a set of measures regulating how they are issued and how much of each ticket sale is reimbursed to the distributor. Rental terms are currently pegged to a $4.40 (FFr33) ticket price.