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Almost 10 million cinema tickets were sold in Israel over the course of 2009 - 9.9 million, 8.5 percent more than in 2008 - the Israel Cinema Association said yesterday.

Figures released in mid-December in the United States show that 1.3 billion cinema tickets were sold there in 2009, compared to 1.2 billion in 2008. Income in the United States from movie-ticket sales in 2009 marked a 10 percent rise compared to 2008 and exceeded $10 billion (at $10.58 billion) for the first time.

These figures set a record in the American cinema industry, whose income exceeded DVD sales for the first time since 2002. In other words, after seven years in which Americans preferred to watch movies at home, they are now returning to theaters.

The record for movie ticket sales in Israel was set in 2001, when more than 10 million were sold. Following the astonishing audience "Avatar" attracted in Israel and around the world - some 550,000 viewers in Israel in five and a half weeks - 2010 may see a new record set for Israeli cinemas.