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
However, despite this apparently strong performance, two of the
country’s largest cinema chains, Virgin and Odeon, have just been put up
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
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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