Mexico's national film institute Imcine and Chamber of Commerce Canacine are nit picking over details but the final assessment of the country's film industry in 2003 remains dire.

Canacine has concluded that Mexican cinema captured a 4.5% share of the overall market but Imcine has given a rosier figure of 6.2% by taking into account the box office performance of romantic comedy Ladies Night which opened strongly last December 10.

Canacine head Miguel Angel Davila raised some hackles when he partly blamed a 12% slump in overall attendance to 135m, compared to last year's 152m, to the rise in ticket prices in Mexico. These increased in January as a result of a one peso per ticket initiative meant to fill the coffers of the two film funds administered by Imcine. The initiative remains frozen in the courts due to injunctions from distributors but ticket prices went up by four to five pesos.

"We think the country's poor economy is mainly to blame, not the spiked ticket prices," said Susana Lopez Aranda, Imcine's managing director of international sales and promotions.

Davila also attributed Mexico's flagging economy and endemic piracy as the causes behind a drop in attendance. He pointed out that admissions in most territories have dipped: 5% in the US, 2.5% in Canada and 9% in Spain. "The only countries to see a rise in admissions have been Brazil and Argentina," he declared.

Both entities are optimistic that next year will see a rise in attendance.

Anticipation is high for a slew of strong upcoming titles from Hollywood and from local producers.