Local pics boost NZ boxoffice

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Homegrown films kept the New Zealand boxoffice buoyant in the first half of 2006, helping it to notch up NZ$146.4 million ($101 million) for the year.

That figure was down marginally from 2005's NZ$146.8 million ($101.3 million) but reported as a "particularly impressive" result by the Motion Picture Distributors Association of New Zealand, which cited the lack of big hits with Kiwi links like the previous year's "King Kong," "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "The World's Fastest Indian."

However, independent New Zealand movies contributed about 10% of the boxoffice total in the first six months, MPDA president Andrew Cornwell said in an interview. "They kept it at a good level relative to other markets around the world," he said.

Among them was "Sione's Wedding," which grossed NZ$4.1 million ($3.2 million) to finish in fifth place. The top four grossers were "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" with NZ$7 million ($4.8 million), "The Da Vinci Code" ($3.6 million), "Ice Age 2" ($3.3 million) and "Casino Royale ($2.8 million).

Two other Kiwi movies also cracked the top 40: "Out of the Blue" ($739,084) and "River Queen" ($677,039).

Cornwell said the success of these movies clearly demonstrates that New Zealand filmmaking is on the cutting edge, with the public keen to support the investment and skill base that has developed so well here.

Admissions were virtually the same as in 2005 -- 1.3 million -- while the number of screens climbed from to 378 from 369. But, with several more multiplexes due to open over the next two years, Cornwell reckons New Zealand's screen count will soon reach saturation point.
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