Entertainment Film Distributors has had the largest share of the UK box office for the first five months of 2002, a sustained domination never before achieved by a UK independent.
With strong performances from Blade II ($13.3m) and Gosford Park ($17.9m) and the continuing success of The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring ($49m in 2002, $91.6m in total), Entertainment is riding high with an 18.6% market share for the first five months of the year. Meanwhile Buena Vista stands at 17.3%, UIP 17.1%, 20th Century Fox 15.9% and Warner Bros. 12.2%.
With Austin Powers In Goldmember, Alexander Payne's About Schmidt and the next instalment of Rings, The Two Towers, to come in 2002, the company looks set to end the year among the top performers.
However, there will be plenty of competition for the overall box office crown, with the rest of the year promising some potential record-breaking releases from the majors.
With last year's UK cinema admissions achieving a 30-year high of 156m, and box office revenues exceeding $1bn, 2001 was looking like a hard act to follow. But five months into the year, admissions and box office are already more than 20% up on 2001's blockbusting figures.
According to statistics house Nielsen EDI, total box office for the first five months of 2002 in the UK stands at $487.2m (£333.7m), compared to $397.4m for the same period last year, a rise of 23%.
So far in 2002 only April has seen a dip year-on-year. According to latest figures supplied by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) January saw admissions reach 15 million, 29% up on 2001, the highest January figures since 1972. Led by 2001 holdover The Lord Of The Rings, January recorded a box office tally of $87m (£59.6m), up 25% on last year.
The launch of BVI's Monster's Inc. (the highest earning film of 2002 so far with $55m) led February to a 38% rise in admissions (19m) and a 36% jump in box office ($126.1m). March admissions rose a massive 43% year-on-year (14.3m), thanks in large part to Febuary holdover Ocean's Eleven and second-half releases Ali G IndaHouse and Ice Age. Box office figures were up 53% ($114m).
April admissions (13.2m) dropped off 6% year-on-year and box office was down 19% ($74.1m) from 2001, when Bridget Jones's Diary ruled over the charts. May, which saw the release of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack Of The Clones, recovered the upward trend with a 25% rise in box office ($86m) and an as-yet unconfirmed jump of 19% (13.8m) in admissions.
With major titles including Spider-Man, Minority Report, Men In Black II, Austin Powers In Goldmember, the latest James Bond title Die Another Day and new Harry Potter and Lord Of The Rings instalments due throughout the year the trend looks certain to continue.