Reports about cinema's death at the hands of DVDs, videogames, computerscreens, mobile phones and all today's other competing diversions have beengreatly exaggerated, according to leading experts on audience trends.
In fact, their latest research suggests that theatre-goersacross all age-groups are now going to the movies more often than they used to.
Such heartening news about the theatrical marketplace emergedyesterday from Screen International's European Box Office Forum, held at London's Waldorf HiltonHotel.
Delegates drawn from across the UK, Europe and the US learned thataudiences are still there to be found and that the exhibition business remainsand will remain - through digital possibilities and more - the industry'spremium shop window for film.
Presentations by Christine Costello, who is chief executive of UKcinema advertising leader Pearl & Dean, and Henry Piney, internationalmanaging director for Nielsen NRG, both demonstrated that audiences in the UKand elsewhere still consider cinema an experience worth paying for repeatedly.
Costello's presentation featured particularly upbeat informationon the UK market. For example, half the number of four to eleven-year-olds saw Shrek2 in cinemas; onequarter of the 16-24 demographic saw The Day After Tomorrow on the big screen; and a third of thebroader 15-44 age span saw The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King theatrically.
She also pointed out that the number of "heavy" cinema-goers (peoplethat go more than once a month) is actually increasing across age groups.
Since 2001 there has been a 6% rise in "heavy" cinema-going in the15-34 age group, 29% among 4-14 year-olds and a very positive 25% increase inthe over 35s.
Piney also dispelled the dire reports that many in the media havebeen preaching about cinema's losing battle with PlayStations and Xboxes.
He cited NRG Pan-European research into videogamers - ademographic that has supposedly migrated away from movie-houses in favour ofentertainment choices at home- that showed 59% still went to the cinema once amonth and were "heavy" cinemagoers
And even though the margin of victory was admittedly narrow, videogamers still rate going to the cinema as their number one favoured pastime,even above twiddling with their joysticks and game pads.