The dire predicament of Iran's domestic film production and exhibition industry was highlighted this week when deputy minister of culture Hassan Pezeshk revealed a dramatic fall in domestic box-office which has reached such lows that Iranian citizens spent an average of just 40-minutes last year at the cinema.

At a meeting of the Majlis Cultural Commission earlier this week, leading Iranian officials met to discuss the crisis which, they argue, has been exacerbated by a rise in illegally imported audio visual equipment and a reluctance by domestic producers to increase production despite favourable financial incentives.

'The smuggling of foreign film screening instruments and the common use of various types of household devices such as compact discs, internet and satellite have greatly harmed Iran's cinema industry," commission spokesperson, Tabriz MP Ali-Asqar She'r-Doust told the Iranian National News Agency.

She'r-Doust put the losses resulting from such devices at $804m (Rials1.4 trillion ), more than 10 times the combined turnover of Iran's domestic film production and exhibition industry, which he said amounted to $57m (Rials100bn ).

She'r-Doust said the commission was looking into the country's cinematic legal framework, tax and other film production incentives in a bid to revive domestic production. But he warned that "the current situation seems unlikely to change."

The commission heard that around 80 Iranian theatres were either standing idle or had only been half-finished and that many others were under the risk of closure. As a result, She'r Doust said, Iran would only produce films ordered by foreign film festivals or backed by overseas investment.