Borat helps make 2006 a bumper year for Hollywood

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The Independent Culture

A spoof Khazakstani television journalist and a louche pirate inspired by the Rolling Stone Keith Richards have helped Hollywood to a bumper box office take and made 2006 a record-breaking year.

The Hollywood Reporter, Tinseltown's bible, says the box office take for 2006 was $0.5bn up on 2005, a rise of 5 per cent, and bucking fears of a continuing slump due to higher ticket prices, internet downloading and piracy. Much of the extra income is credited to the success of a kind of piracy, however, in the shape of Johnny Depp. His turn as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest amassed more than $1bn (£510m), globally.

The film also holds the record for the highest opening-day and single-day box office of $55.8m and opening weekend record of $135.6min July.

With the New Year holiday period still being counted - it marks the official end of the box office year - The Hollywood Reporter says the annual box office take for the US is likely to hit an astronomical $9.42bn. This would make it the fourth biggest-grossing year in Hollywood history, knocking 2005's $8.99bn into fifth place, but still short of the biggest year on record, 2004, when $9.54bn rolled into Hollywood's coffers.

Sacha Baron Cohen, the Cambridge-educated comedian from London, did his bit to help the Hollywood cash flow. His film Borat, about the exploits of a Khazakstani journalist as he travels across America in search of Pamela Anderson, was the highest grossing adult-rated film, adding $125m to the pot.

Even that is small change compared to the big-hitters, the family blockbusters.

The second highest-grossing film of the year was Cars, starring computer-generated vehicles, which brought in $244m and third came X-Men the Last Stand, with $234m.

But it isn't all good news for the studio bosses. There was only a slight increase in the number of people going to the cinema, 1.44 billion compared to 1.4 billion, and as much money as this year's hits made, they didn't make as much individually as last year's blockbusters.

The average opening-weekend gross fell from $17.6m in 2005 to $16.9m last year.

There was also a decline in the second half of 2006 with winter releases failing to match up to the success of 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That knocked the estimated 7 per cent lead down to 5 per cent. Successful as 2006 was, the income generated was still lower than in 2002 and 2003, meaning the trend is still down. Only Pirates of the Caribbean broke through the $300m barrier, compared to three films in 2004, and 2006 was deemed overly reliant on sequels, with five in the top 20 grossing movies.