Impressive-looking 2007 box-office revenue figures have already been tarnished by questions about the profitability of the films. But there are other questions that should be concerning the industry.

The North American box office generated revenues of $9.7bn in 2007 while the international arena rang in with an estimated $15.2bn to bring the global theatrical gross to just shy of $25bn.

The US domestic marketplace saw box office increase by 4.9% from 2006. However, actual ticket sales were flat compared with the prior year, because the average ticket price inflated with an increase in higher-priced special presentations in 3D.

There was also a mounting number of high-profile titles, including 300, Spider-Man 3 and I Am Legend going out in large-format versions as well as conventional projections.

The international scene experienced a more marginal rise at the box office of 2%. Its languid bump is all the more striking as the US majors had collectively a 14% increase in that sector of the marketplace.

There were unique regional variations that saw stasis and even decline in some territories compared to 2006.

And there were, of course, rare instances of double-digit rebounds, most obviously in the evolving major territories of Russia and China where recent local productions have proved popular and the construction of state-of-the-art multiplexes have contributed to a revival in movie-going.

However, the situation in the US as well as such nations as the UK, Japan, Germany, Australia, Mexico and France is what's known in the industry as a mature environment.

In layman's terms, that boils down to a relatively accessible and well-screened exhibition system; a release schedule attuned to holidays and viewing patterns; and a distribution infrastructure with access to indigenous and foreign productions.

Theatre owners in the US and Canada were pumped up by distribution and exhibition to expect a significant boost in 2007 for both box office and attendance with a summer season rife with sequels to such past popular successes as Harry Potter, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Die Hard and Rush Hour.

While, historically, it has been the case that franchises have generated diminishing returns, the large number of titles blinded officials to the fact the heavily recycled agenda had serious limitations. The last significant annual boost occurred in 2004 when many of the current franchise titles were fresh.

An even more significant factor back then was the success of such films as Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Passion Of The Christ that appealed to segments of the audience that have been largely abandoned in favour of younger, more frequent film-goers.

The key to growth in mature markets remains attracting more discriminating crowds and that lesson appears to have been forgotten in some territories.

Internationally, the key factor in expansion of recent note has been competitive local production. Yet, broadly speaking, most major film-making centres from Mumbai to Munich suffered from a paucity of fresh ideas but that only begins to paint part of the picture.

In France, the first quarter of 2007 was setting a record film-going pace thanks to the likes of La Vie En Rose, Taxi 4 and Tell No One but that country, like most of the world, decided not to go head to head with the US summer blockbusters.

South Korea was an exception and one of the few major territories that experienced a seasonal boost.

Volume may produce the big numbers but the future rests on originality.