Paul Verhoeven's acclaimed Black Book (Zwartboek) has given localfilms a welcome boost in The Netherlands this week, scoring the best localopening of the year and the fifth best opening for any title.

The World War II thriller,which is this year's Dutch Oscar entry for best foreign language film consideration,claimed $863,524 (Euros 682,624) from 90 screens over its four-day opening(Sept 14-17). This gave the film a strong $9,595 per-screen average fordistributor A-Film.

The opening only narrowly rankedbehind Twentieth Century Fox's X-Men: The Last Stand, which grossed $879,594 (£695,328) overits launch weekend in late May. However, X-Men'saverage was lower ($8,144) having played 108 screens. The average was alsolower for the third best opener of the year, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, which claimed a $7,486 average aftertaking $1.4m (Euros 1.12m) from 189 screens at the end of March.

The top-ranking openers ofthe year, and overall box office leaders, are Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which took $2.2m (Euros1.75m) from 132 screens after opening on July 13, and May 18's The Da Vinci Code, which claimed $2.1m(Euros 1.64m) from 143.

In line with much of Europe, The Netherlands is seeing improved numbers this year after a 12.7%drop in box office between 2004 and 2005. To date this year, box office figuresare up 5.5% on the same period of 2005.

However, 2005 was considereda good one for local films with a local market share of 13.6%, up from 9.2% in2004. This year has provided few local triumphs so far. Zoop In India, the latest in the popularlocal comedy franchise, disappointed upon opening on June 29, taking just$119,952 (Euros 94,823) from 102 screens - only just over half the openingweekend of 2005's entry, Zoop In Afrika,which claimed $233,005 (Euros 184,193) from 98 screens. Twelve weeks on,however, Zoop InIndia has managed to stay in the top 20 and has built to a$2.1m (Euros 1.65m) total. Afrikafinished with $2.7m.

Despite the 2005 successes,no local film made the top 10 of the year, a feat that Black Book's very strong start could correct in 2006.

Verhoeven's first film since2000's Hollow Man and his firstDutch-language title since 1983's TheFourth Man (De Vierde Man), BlackBook won the Young Cinema Award for best international film at last month'sVenice Film Festival and saw a gala presentation at the Toronto International FilmFestival last week.

The Dutch director iscurrently in pre-production on another local title, an adaptation of Dutchnovel Kneeling On A Flowerbed Of Violets(Knielen Op Een Bed Violen) - a $12.9m (Euros 10m) project set to shootnext year.

Additional reseach by Gabrielle Berghammer.