Media Lifeline: UK cinema admissions

With so much entertainment available, cinema has struggled to maintain audiences.

1946: A war-weary nation celebrates the return of peacetime by going out several times a week to have a fag and a snog in the back row of the Regal. Barely discernible through a cirrus of cigarette smoke is that classic stiff-upper-lip romantic classic Brief Encounter, as UK cinema admissions reach their all-time peak of 1.63 billion.

1957: As the TV habit takes hold in earnest (there was a surge in TV rental and ownership for the 1953 Coronation and ITV launched in 1955), admissions fall to 915 million. The most memorable British film is The Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean.

1988: And a real wipe-out takes hold across the 60s (admissions were down to 214 million by 1969), and 70s (down to 112 million by 1979) as the nation's youth turns to sex or drugs or rock 'n' roll (or all three) as preferred entertainment options. Real rock bottom is reached in 1988, when UK admissions crash to 84 million - still a record low. Films the public didn't see include Beetlejuice, A Fish Called Wanda and Big, which wasn't.

2002: A revival begins across the 90s as the evolution of the new multiplex developments makes going to the cinema cool again. In 2002, buoyed by hits such as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, admissions climb to a respectable 177 million.

2007: However, this revival proves fragile, and the figures begin declining slowly (to 157 million in 2006) as a new generation of digital media addicts opts for hand-held entertainment. There's considerable relief, then, when 2007 figures show total admissions at more than 175 million (still an estimate), with summer figures at their highest since 1965. Summer hits include Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Fast forward ...

2010: There's further good news as internet content piracy causes meltdown in the broadcast television market - and the Hollywood studio system revives as cinema becomes the main outlet for must-see entertainment. The UK hit of the summer is a remake of Brief Encounter, starring Stephen Fry and Amy Winehouse, as total admissions top 200 million for the first time since 1969.