The Spanish box office looks to have enjoyed a better year last year than estimates predicted, as new figures from the state film institute ICAA reveal.

Meanwhile, local films have started the year off with a bang thanks to the record-breaking performance of Javier Fesser's comic book-inspired action-adventure Mortadelo & Filemon - The Big Adventure (Mortadelo & Filemon - La Gran Aventura), now the third top-grossing Spanish film ever.

ICAA puts 2002 overall ticket sales through December 20 at Euros 618.5m, a slight rise over the previous year's Euros 616.4m. In its annual report the Spanish Film Academy estimated the year at the local box office would end with a significant drop to Euros 585m, while Nielsen/EDI had anticipated a smaller descent to Euros 612m.

The numbers will continue to grow as ICAA this week finishes tallying the remaining days of December, incorporating full figures for late-year releases such as Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. As of January 5, Potter had taken in $23.1m and Rings $22.4m in Spain.

The Academy had further predicted that Spanish films would corner a low 12% market share from an estimated Euros 70m in ticket sales in 2002. The updated ICAA figures place that number at 13.5% from Euros 84m thanks to the continued success of top-grossing films like The Other Side Of The Bed (El Otro Lado De La Cama), Mondays In The Sun (Los Lunes Al Sol) and Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella).

Spanish films' overall year-on-year market share still dropped several percentage points due to the runaway success in 2001 of two films - Alejandro Amenabar's The Others and Santiago Segura's Torrente 2: Mission In Marbella

But 2003 has started off with a bang thanks to Mortadelo & Filemon: after just sixteen days out, the Sogecine and Pendelton Pictures co-production has earned close to Euros 15m off 3.2 million admissions, shooting it into the number three spot of all-time biggest grossing local hits ever behind The Others (Euros 27.1m) and Torrente 2 (Euros 22.1m).

Sogecine's South Of Granada (Al Sur De Granada) is also performing well with $1.85m earned through Feb 9 after five weeks out. Aurum release Mas De Mil Camaras Velan Por Tu Seguridad had taken in close to Euros 1m through Feb 10.

Some of the forthcoming local releases which could boost local films' market share in 2003 include: David Serrano's Football Days (Dias De Futbol), featuring the cast and writer (now turned director) from The Other Side Of The Bed; Vicente Aranda's folkloric Carmen starring Paz Vega (Sex And Lucia) and Leonardo Sbaraglia (Intacto); Maria Ripoll's thriller Utopia starring Sbaraglia and Najwa Nimri (Piedras); action-comedy Two Tough Guys (Dos Tipos Duros) to be released this summer through Buena Vista; and Franco comedy Buen Viaje Excelencia!