The Spanish box office rose by exactly $100m from $698m in 2007 to $798m (Euros 595.6m) in 2008, according to figures released by Nielsen EDI.

But this was mostly due to a favourable exchange rate and a late surge from Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, released on November 28.

This is reflected in the fact that admissions were down 8.4% from 114,280,135 in 2007 to 104,745,274 in 2008.

Not surprisingly, the US studio fare dominated the box office, with Universal taking the distributor crown thanks to four films in the top 10, including Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, which took the top spot with $27.8m (20.9m Euros) and Madagascar in third with $19.3m (14.5m Euros). Sony's Hancock squeezed between the two with takings of $22m (16.6m Euros).

For the fourth year running, Spanish films struggled to make a dent in the local box office taking just 9.7% of the total box office in 2008, compared with 12% in 2007.

Without films from the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Alejandro Amenabar or Julio Medem, the leading Spanish project was Alex De La Iglesia's English-language The Oxford Murders. Released by Warner Bros, the UK-set thriller came in at number 15 on the list with takings of $10.9m (8.2m Euros).

Others to make an impactinclude Miguel Bardem's live-action spy comedy Mortadelo And Filemon: Mission - Save The Planet, which took $10.3m (7.7 Euros), Nacho G Velilla's gay comedy Chef's Special, which took $6.8m (5.1m Euros), and Jose Luis Cuerda's Franco era drama The Blind Sunflowers, which came out of left field to take $5.5m (4.1m Euros) and be put forward as Spain's entrant for the Oscars.

Spanish co-productions fared a little better, however, with Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona (a co-production between US outfit Gravier Productions and Spain's MediaPro) taking $10m (7.5m Euros) and Steven Soderbergh's Che (Morena Films-Telecinco-Laura Bickford Productions-Wild Bunch) achieving $9.1m (6.8m Euros).

Looking ahead, 2009 should be a massive year for Spanish films.

  • Amenabar releases his $70m historical epic Agora, set in Roman Egypt and starring Rachel Weisz.
  • Almodovar has Broken Embraces, a dark romantic tale starring the director's favourite Penelope Cruz.
  • Bardem will release Aspacia, a love story set in the 5th century BC
  • Juan Antonio Bayona, director of The Orphanage will have his new film, Hater, an English-language project about a violent epidemic, released by Universal Pictures International,
  • And the [REC] directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza return with a sequel to their popular horror.