Cinema Expo should have been a big celebration, with a recordnumber of films topping $100m in international takings and a packedtrade show promising a host of new technology innovations.

But as the Amsterdam event closed there was a distinctly glasshalf-empty atmosphere among many exhibitors that contrasted with the enthusiasmof the studio executives presenting their line-ups.

The good news seems to be that the end of the year is almostuniversally accepted as strong.

The big event movies like Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire,King Kong and The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe all promise to be big hits, delivering a perfect end of year present for theatrical.

A sneak preview of the King Kong trailer was probably thehighlight of the event.

But for the rest of the year, concern remains that studio portfolios lackthe punch they seemed to offer on paper.

Vue Entertainment chief executive Tim Richards set what wasexpected to be the tone of the event: "We have seen a slow start to 2005 butfrom June onwards, the year will take off due to an amazing product line-up," he said.

But for the majority of exhibitors who spoke to Screendaily,"amazement" gave way to something less exciting.

UIP's tentpole War Of The Worlds was generally admired rather thanloved, and some believe that will be reflected in its box-office performance.

"It's a little difficult for audiences," suggested TarjaPilroinen of Finland's Savon Kinot Oy.

"I think it may start quite well during the first two weeksbut may struggle after that."

Another big summer hope, Warner Bros' Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is anotherrelease that attracted the "difficult" label - which for exhibitors means that the movie may have artistic integrity but will struggle to shift the popcorn.

"It may be a little too English. It's not like the HarryPotter books that people know everywhere," said Sonia Morena of UCI Spain.

Others fear that Tim Burton's film may be a touch too offbeatand scary for very young children, a little bit too child-like forteens.

Mark Harris, of Nu Metro cinemas in South Africa, liked thelook of Michael Bay's The Island, which was screened in shortened form, but echoed the general feeling that pre-Christmas fare lacked any signs of either asoaraway box office certainty or a first-rate sleeper.

Herbie Fully Loaded whipped up some enthusiasm, not leastbecause of the lack of competition for the under-12 feelgood family market. AUK distributor reckoned it would take a solid $10m in the British market.

The decision to invite a group of thoroughly excitableschoolchildren to the screening was a smart piece of marketing - but again thefeeling was good rather than great.

A few of the trailers showed promise, with big applause forDisney Jodie Foster-starrer Flight Plan, for example. Another Disney title Chicken Little looks like it may attract younger children - but again not until the winter.

Few went as far as one Irish exhibitor, who told Screendaily on condition of anonymity: "It's time the studios pulled their fingerout. They can't expect to us to invest in cinemas if they can't provide theproduct."

The general reaction seemed to be that what was on offerbefore Christmas was "solid" - and solid won't provide the magic bulletto pull back early year disappointments in a number of European markets.

Whether the downbeat tone is a reflection of the quality of product or the result of a morale-sapping start to the year for many exhibitors will become clearer in the coming months.