MEDIA ANALYSIS: MEDIA TRACK - Cinema admissions are up, but are there the bums for all those new seats?

The UK cinema industry recently celebrated its most successful weekend ever, 29-31 October, when pounds 13 million was taken in admissions over the three days. The success of The Blair Witch Project has greatly contributed to this figure, as has Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Cinema’s annual admissions for 1999 now look set to beat 1998’s 135 million.

The UK cinema industry recently celebrated its most successful

weekend ever, 29-31 October, when pounds 13 million was taken in

admissions over the three days. The success of The Blair Witch Project

has greatly contributed to this figure, as has Star Wars: The Phantom

Menace. Cinema’s annual admissions for 1999 now look set to beat 1998’s

135 million.



However, despite this apparently strong performance, two of the

country’s largest cinema chains, Virgin and Odeon, have just been put up

for sale.



Virgin sold its screens, which account for 14 per cent of the market, to

French group UGC last month. The Odeon chain is still up for auction and

is expected to sell for around pounds 300 million.



The sell-off of Odeon and Virgin comes as a report from research group

Dodona predicts that the growth in screens, driven particularly by

out-of-town complexes, is set to outstrip admissions in the short-term

Admissions in 1998 were down year-on-year for the first time since 1995

and, with no Star Wars instalment scheduled for 2000, admissions are

likely to drop as we enter the new millennium.



Looking at monthly admissions figures, the picture is not even so rosy

for 1999. Barring June, July and August, when The Phantom Menace was

cleaning up, every other month so far this year has shown an annual

decline in ticket sales. In 1998, only four months showed an increase

admissions when compared to 1997. At the same time as this, however, the

number of screens has been steadily on the rise. By the end of 1998

there were over 2,600 screens in the UK; in 1988 there were fewer than

1,500 screens.



Cinema has increased its share of total advertising revenue from 0.5 per

cent to 1.0 per cent over the last ten years and at the same time the

number of annual admissions has risen by over 70 per cent. The number of

screens, however, has grown by around 85 per cent with more sites due to

open this year.





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