This year's Hong Kong International Film Festival (March 22- April 6) achieved an impressive 30% increase in ticket sales as a result ofnew marketing policies and programming strands.

Thefestival, which wrapped yesterday with screenings of Jia Zhang-ke's TheWorld and Alain Corneau's Words In Blue, sold around 85,000 ticketsand about one quarter of screenings were sold out.

According to festival director Peter Tsi, the growth was dueto intensive marketing and the introduction of new sections, including a seriesof outdoor screenings and a youth-oriented programme. "We also had morecelebrity participation," said Tsi.

The changes were prompted by a reduction in governmentfunding which has made the festival more reliant on corporate sponsorship. Newsections, and the screening of star-studded local productions such as HouseOf Fury, were designed to expand the festival's audience base.

Meanwhile, the festival's inclusion in the first everEntertainment Expo Hong Kong increased global film industry participation. Manyfilms that screened in the festival, such as Gu Changwei's Peacock, alsofeatured in the "Asian Screenings" section of Filmart.

"Filmartprovides access to distributors so it gives filmmakers another incentive topresent their films here," said Tsi.

Several awards were handed out at the festival including theGolden DV award which was shared by Takahashi Izumi's The Soup, One Morningand Liu Jiayin's Oxhide. The top prize in the Humanitarian Awards forDocumentaries went to Chinese film Before The Flood.

The FIPRESCI Award went to Lu Yi-tong's Lost In Wu Songfor its "ability to show with a great sense of humour, the conflict betweenreality and fantasy".

Despite its growing popularity, the festival is facingfurther budget cuts. Government funding will be reduced by HK$400,000 next yearfollowing a similar cut this year. Formerly managed by the Hong Kong ArtsDevelopment Council, the festival is now run by a private non-profitorganisation, the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society.