Higher taxes onbox office tickets have forced exhibitors to raise ticket prices in Argentina.These have gone up as much as 15% in some areas, further aggravating dwindlingadmissions in a country deep in recession.

According to a leading distributor, last year a mid-sized film such as Heartbreakers could have drawn an average 1,000admissions per copy during its opening weekend. A few weekends ago, Heartbreakers attracted 20,000 admissions from 35 screens/copies.

The good news is that Argentine film institute INCAA has recovered half of its original budget from the government after zealous lobbying by current INCAA director Jose Miguel Onaindia.

Onaindia managed to wrestle it back after the government had introduced a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 21% on movie tickets and filmproductions last month. INCAA's budget is partly sourced from a 10% tax levied on box office receipts.

Onaindia had made it one of his pet missions to recover the pending $30m the state had denied INCAA during his predecessor's tenure.

Citing a deepening economic crisis, the government had halved the institute'sbudget of $60m following fund embezzlement charges against former director Julio Maharbiz in 1998.

With its full budget again intact, INCAA will be able to pay long-pending subsidies toproducers of films made in 1999 and 2000. The depleted funds put many projectsin post-production limbo.