"This film has huge expectations of turning around the summer boxoffice," Andrew Cripps, UIP president and COO, told guests before a WarOf The Worlds screening at yesterday's opening of Cinema Expo in Amsterdam.

While anti-piracy measures are routine at blockbuster previews, the confiscation of every potential recording device before the screening - even mobile phones without a camera function - underlined the feature's importance during soft times at the global box-office.

This year's Cinema Expo programme again looks forward to the digital age, with the usual raft of technical announcements. But the underlying mood among delegates at the RAI convention centre this week is focussed more on the short term.

A month of disappointing figures has concentrated minds on takings: German box-office figures for the second quarter of 2005 were 28% down on last year, while admissions plummeted in Italy by 18.05% during the first half of 2005, with a 17.84% slump in box office.

The figures were all the more disappointing because 2004 had hinted at a sustained improvement.

Even in the more upbeat UK, takings weredown significantly in April. "2004 saw the lowest number of multiplexes open in the UK [six] and the highest number of closures [63] since 1995," said John Wilkinson, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors Association.

Steve Weiner, chief executive of UK exhibitor Cineworld Cinemas, added: "Why are we all gathering in Amsterdam. Is it for a wake' After all there are doomsayers out there proclaiming our industry is dead once again."

But although most of the 1,000-plus delegates would agree with his assessment that the underlying trends are strong, many of the Cinema Expo attendees want solutions to their immediate problems, while also concentrating on longer-term worries.

UIP triedhard to accentuate the positive, unveiling a slate that included not just theSpielberg-Cruise alien invasion blockbuster but also the likes of Peter Jackson's December release KingKong.

Cripps reminded delegates that the company had consistently delivered a series of hits, last yeartopping $2bn in worldwide box-office receipts for the first time.

Today,Warner Bros takes its turn in unveiling a programme that includes Tim Burton'seagerly-anticipated Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

What both slates stress is the "cinema experience" - and that's crucial to recovery, according to Marlis Kieft, managing director of German exhibitor Greater Union Filmpalast.

"It is necessary to emphasise the exceptional quality of a movie experience to ensure that cinema will remain at the first level of the exploitation window for feature films."

The restof the Cinema Expo programme is slanted heavily towards new technology and the applicationof digital innovation.

Yesterday,Barco launched a new, compact 2K digital cinema projector based on the DLPCinema technology of Texas Instruments, while todaySony displays its 4K SXRD Projector.

* On Monday night British animator Nick Park, the brains behind Wallace and Gromit as well as director of UIP's upcoming The Curse Of The Wererabbit,received Cinema Expo's Award of Excellence in Filmmaking.