Warner- Village Roadshow's first ever Greek co-production, the satirical comedy, Crying, A Blessing From Paradise will be a crucial test for local titles' box office potential, when it is released on Oct 26.

The Safe co-production, with local directors Thanassis Papathanassiou and Mihalis Reppas, will try to renew the spectacular success of the duo's first comedy, last year's Safe Sex, which scored an all-time record of 1.4 million admissions nationwide.

But currently, scepticism and doubt are the daily diet of the Greek film community, especially in the production and distribution sectors. It is significant that two of the most eagerly-awaited new productions, The Cistern and Life After Death: My Father, which mark the respective directorial debuts of promising new directors Christos Dimas and Penny Panagiotopoulou, almost ground to a halt midway through shooting.

This happened when co-producing entity, the state-subsidised Greek Film Centre (GFC), ran out of funds and the private co-production outfits behind the films, Bad Movies and CL Productions, claimed they could not bear the production costs alone. CL Productions' executive producer, Kostas Lambropoulos, was able to keep the production of both films going only after securing a private bank loan following an emergency meeting with GFC interim president Despina Mouzaki, who managed to put up the necessary GFC guarantee to the bank.

Most private producers are united in blaming the culture ministry's long delay in providing the 2001 budgeted funds to the GFC. At the same time, both the private production and distribution sectors seem determined not to back local films before they see an improvement in performance at the local box office. The financial situation of the GFC will partly depend on the assurances given by the culture minister, Evangelos Venizelos, to the body's new president and CEO, Diagoras Chronopoulos, who was appointed in late August.

Meanwhile, in addition to Crying, all eyes are on the spate of Greek films due to hit cinemas this autumn. There are considerable doubts as to whether the comedies that have been the bread and butter of private producers for the past three years will continue to deliver at the box office. The first film to test the waters in early October is the Spentzos Film-distributed social comedy Brazilero by Sotiris Goritsas, who has already racked up a successful string of box-office hits such as Balkanisateur.