Belgian theaters lose steam in '07


BRUSSELS -- Belgian cinema audiences fell 6.7% in 2007, to 22.3 million from 23.9 million in 2006, according to official figures.

The fall in admissions was blamed on high ticket prices -- 9 euros ($13) is a typical price -- as well as the relative poor performance of summer titles, none of which broke the 1 million ticket threshold. The top draw in 2007, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," sold just 987,664 tickets and ranked only 18th among top Belgian boxoffice hits since 1996.

Sequels nonetheless dominated the boxoffice for 2007. The second spot was claimed by "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" (978,889) followed by "Shrek the Third" (844,379), "Ratatouille" (758,349 admissions) and "The Simpsons Movie" (580,350 admissions).

Other sequels included "Spider-Man 3" (sixth place), "Live Free or Die Hard" (10th), "Ocean's Thirteen" (11th) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (13th). Only two European productions made an appearance: "Mr Bean's Holiday" in ninth place (359,614 admissions) and "Taxi 4" in 16th (281,202 admissions). Belgian title "Ben X" took the 17th position in the 2007 rankings, with 262,324 admissions.

Although Flanders -- the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium -- saw a 4.47% decline in cinema audiences, 2007 was ironically a record year for Flemish cinema. Thanks to movies such as "Ben X" and Dominique Deruddere's "Firmin," audience figures for Flemish films were 1.2 million, surging past the previous record in 2003, and more than double the 2004 number.