A number of blockbuster films released before the Christmas period succeeded in stemming the decline in cinema attendances last year.

In July, KRS Film Distributors said it had witnessed a drop of 22 per cent, but the release of films such as The Chronicles Of Narnia, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and King Kong, saw the industry recover slightly, and 2005 ended with a drop of 12 per cent.

While KRS blames piracy, the situation was further compounded by the fact that 2005 will not go down in the annals of cinematic history as a year that churned out memorable films.

"When we first saw the product for last year we had high expectations, but most anticipated blockbusters such as King Arthur, Alexander and War Of The Worlds didn't fare as well as we expected at the box office," KRS manager Alex Pace said.

KRS general manager Charles Pace agreed and pointed out that most of Europe had witnessed a decline in cinema attendances, with the exception of the UK.

He believes one of the reasons behind the decline in Malta remained the high level of unbridled sale of pirated copies of blockbuster films before their release on the big screen.

Of course, the high penetration of DVDs also made it more convenient for some to watch a film in the comfort of their home, at a lower cost.

Mulling over last year's showings, Mr Pace said the film version of the popular musical Phantom Of The Opera proved to the favourite of the Maltese. This film topped the box office hits in the year which, for KRS, runs from December 15, 2004 to December 14, 2005.

Coming in at second place was the comedy Meet The Fockers, followed by Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and War Of The Worlds.

Surprisingly, last year's Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby didn't feature in the top 10, neither did Crash, being tipped among the frontrunners of this year's Oscars.

Other films that do not feature in the top 10 include Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, The Legend Of Zorro, Hitch, Batman Begins and Cinderella Man.

All in all, however, KRS is looking ahead to this year with greater optimism and is hopeful that the films on offer will entice people back to the magic of the big screen.

Among the expected big hits is Memoirs Of A Geisha, based on the 1997 best-selling book, being released next week, as well as Steven Spielberg's Munich, set in the aftermath of the 1972 massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics, which was partially filmed in Malta and is expected to be released on January 27.

Other films that should go down well with the public include Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain, The March Of The Penguins, The Da Vinci Code, Superman Returns, and sequels such as Basic Instinct 2, Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, and Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

"We have a good product coming up which will appeal to a variety of people and ages," Alex Pace concluded.

The top 10 box office films for 2005

Placing

Title

Subject

1.

The Phantom of the Opera

Drama/Musical

2.

Meet the Fockers

Comedy

3.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Adventure/Fantasy

4.

War of the Worlds

Action/Sci-Fi

5.

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Adventure/Comedy

6.

Mr & Mrs Smith

Action/Comedy

7.

The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Action/Fantasy

8.

King Kong

Action/Drama

9.

Madagascar

Animation

10.

National Treasure

Action

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