Malaysiais poised to become the second largest film producer in South East Asia, thanksto an increasing number of pictures being churned out by local producers.

Twoof the biggest producers in Malaysia are planning to increase film output thisyear: Metrowealth has set to make 11, up from six last year, while TayanganUnggul will produce five, up from three last year. A string of other producersare also pumping money into the industry and a dozen of films are inpre-production stage.

Ifall these films materialise, Malaysia will produce around 30 films this year,making itself South East Asia's second largest film producer, only afterThailand.

DrDB Nihalsingha, Astro's executive director for feature films noted thatMalaysia's film industry was fast growing. 'We are making morefilms to give the audience greater choice. By doing so, we hope we will createa stronger cinema going crowd.'

TayanganUnggul is the film making arm of Astro, the pay TV operator in Malaysia whichalso owns Hong Kong's film studio Celestial Pictures.

Overthe past few years, an increasing number of local films have been up fortheatrical release, raising box office revenues to all time high. Last year 16local films were released, grossing a total of $6.1m (RM$23.3m) at the box office.In 1998, the figure stood at $1.5m with 11 films released.

Arecent blockbuster was Metrowealth's romantic comedy Kuliah Cinta, which passed the $1m mark over a 30-day period from35 screens and vaulted last year's top grossing film CintaKolestrol's take of $999,000.