As the European football championships are drawing to a close and the Olympic Games (August 8-24) are around the corner, Greek distributors and exhibitors fear that sporting events could further dampen this year's box office performance. So far this year, Makis Diamantopoulos, generalmanager of the Odeon Cineplex exhibition chain describes demand as 'stable at low levels'.

For the winter season - early September 2007 to late May 2008 - when most films launch in the country's 270 theaters (450 screens), cinemasregistered around 1m admissions less than the 13.3m admissions reported for the corresponding 2006-2007 season and the extra 500,000 admissions chalked up by the 50 summer open-air theatres.

The decrease is reflected also in the admissions of the Top Ten films: 3.6m admissions for this season compared to 4.6m for the 2006-2007 season.

In line with what seems to be the case in most other European countries, local films are doing well. For the fourth year in a row, local titles continue to capture a significant chunk of the local b.o. to the expense of foreign, mostly US, fare.

This season four Greek productions are in the Top Ten chart - led by Yiannis Smaragdi's El Greco - capturing almost 2m admissions which represents a record 15% of the global box office. The four US productions, among them Ratatouille and Harry Poter and the Order of the Phoenix included in the Top Ten had 1.5m admissions. France comes third in the Top Ten thanks to the 400,00 admissions chalked by Asterix in the Olympic Games.

Such a positive development for local fare seems to justify the position of Haris Antonopoulos, CEO distribution/exhibition/production powerhouse Village Films. He believes that further box-office increase to the tune of 20m admissions will come only if there is an increase of the number of local productions and the introduction of new technologies.

Odeon's George Tziotzios told Screen that 'measures to boost the box office should include a substantial increase in the number of local productions and the introduction of art-plexes reserved to European fare which could easily pump an additional 700,000 admissions per year in the box office.'

Tziotzios forms part of a special committee composed by film industry experts which, headed by Costa Gavras, was called by the Culture Minister Mihalis Liappis to submit a blue print for a new film law. Industry insiders hope the draft, if submitted to Parliament and voted into a law, may include incentives for exhibition as well as for production plus the implementation of tax shelters to lure foreign shoots in the country.

Exhibitors fear that unless incentives are introduced more than ten one-screen theaters may cease operating by next September.

Multiplexes do not seem affected for the moment.

Village introduced multiplexes here for the first time 11 years ago. Admissions have since soared from 6.5m to today's 12.3m. The company introduced last year the Real D Tridimensional digital format in a number of its multiplexes (Beowulf registered an encouraging 75,000 admissions in this format) and invested in local productions. It was joined by two other distribution/exhibition/production conglomerates, Odeon-steered by Manos Krezias- and the Vardinoyiannis group Audiovisual-where Takis Veremis is in charge of the cinema sector.

Both companies are investing in local productions blending crowd-pleasing comedies such as Kiss of Life, Just Broke Up, and First Time Godfather with more auteur oriented fare such as El Greco and Theo Angelopoulos' Dust of Time, actually in post and set to launch in the Venice Film Festival next September.