Swiss cinema's market share has continued its downward trend, according to provisional figures for the first half of 2008, with local films only clinching a 2.3% slice of the box-office compared to last year's 7% and 2006's record 11.6%.

Statistics collated by the industry body Procinema showed that the ambitious animation film Max & Co., released by Walt Disney, attracted 29,498 cinema-goers -- way below the makers' expectations. Next was the Swiss Film Award-winner Der Freund by Micha Lewinsky, with 29,045 admissions, followed by Christoph Schaub and Michael Schindhelm's documentary Bird's Nest - Herzog & de Meuron In China with 17,339 tickets sold. Jacob Berger's 2007 Piazza Grande film 1 Journee drew only 3,939 people into the cinemas since its May release by Vega Film.

In comparison, the first six months of last year saw last 65,000 tickets sold for Mike Eschmann's youth drama Breakout.

These sobering statistics come as Nicolas Bideau, head of the film section at the Federal Office for Culture (BAK), called for 'radical measures' to make Swiss cinema 'more competitive and of higher quality.'

Speaking to the news agency SDA, Bideau claimed that Swiss arthouse films currently find 'too little audience because too many films are insufficiently developed before the beginning of shooting', and suggested that applications for the funding from the national film institution were made at a stage too early in the production.

'I have had Swiss film projects accompanied and monitored by foreign producers for two years,' Bideau noted. 'They came to the conclusion that our films are not well enough prepared when they enter the production phase.'

At the same time, he did not wish to shift all of the blame on the producers, admitting that 'possibly the funders have also underestimated the importance of the preparation phase.'

He argued that abroad 'it is absolutely normal in the auteur genre to develop a project and nevertheless not realise it. Only the most solid of projects are really shot there. In Switzerland, on the other hand, work on a film is seldom stopped.'

Bideau added that the BAK would be more self-critical in the future about its own funding policy, which had seen 'too-small amounts for too many productions.'

He was therefore considering 'supporting fewer productions with larger amounts' in order to 'improve the quality of the projects.'

Bideau's comments found little favour, though, with filmmaker and producer Samir of Zurich-based Dschoint Ventschr.

Speaking to Klein Report, the award-winning director of Snow White countered: 'Bideau is contradicting himself and making claims about the auteur and arthouse film which are not true. Das Fräulein [which won the Golden Leopard in Locarno two years ago] was namely much more successful than the Tell film [which flopped last autumn]. His calculation does not add up. The funding of fewer films leads to fewer productions and to fewer successes.'