With both the wet Czech summer and loss of the nationalfootball team playing in the Euro 2004, the 39th edition of the Karlovy VaryFilm Festival got off to a good start on July 2, as audiences could commit tothe films without distraction.

Early fears that Sunday night's Championship final wouldovershadow the local competition film, Champions,were put to rest as the Czechs seemed to ignore the game in protest, makingother guests watch the game at bars around town.

As in recent years, the eight day event is attracting scoresof young audiences, who all but turn the central Thermal hotel into acombination music festival and camping ground, as people sleep under whateverroofing they can find.

After five days of packed screenings the festival has sold animpressive 85,500 tickets for 209 screenings, but it is too soon to comparefigures with last year, as the 2004 edition features a tighter program of fewerfilms in fewer cinemas

The competition program has been much better received thanJohn Irvin's opening film The Boys FromCounty Clare, with early interest focused on Xavier Sanchez Bermundez'sSpanish Leon And Olivido as well asPaprika Steen's Danish Aftermath.Awards will be handed out on Saturday evening, where Shrek 2 is the closing film.