Europeancinema produced record numbers of films last year even as admissions nosedived.

Theannual European Audiovisual Observatory report shows 798 films were produced inthe 25 nations of the European Union (EU) - up 37 from 2004.

Franceled the way with 240 films in 2004, up by 28 even on the record year of 2003.Some $1.2m (Euros 933.7m) was invested in French production, a 4.6% increase on 2004.

Spain(142) and Germany (146) also enjoyed record numbers, in the latter case boostedby a mini-boom in documentary making.

Findingaudiences proved a tougher proposition with admissions in the EU dropping 11% and falling below the one billion mark.

Some892 million cinema tickets were sold in 2005, compared with 1.007 billion in 2004. They represented the worst figures since 1999.

Themarket share of EU origin films held steady at 24.6% compared with 25.2% last year but received a significantboost from local films that played well only in their home markets.

Observatoryanalyst Susan Newman warned it was too early to draw definitive conclusionsabout the performance of EU films outside the territories.

YesterdayEU Information Society and Media Commissioner, Viviane Reding noted that there had been $652bn (Euros 513bn) spent in the last six years to circulating European films outside their home markets.

"This hasbeen European money well spent: not only do we promote cultural diversity, which is the heart of our European identity, but we have also substantially enhanced the competitiveness of the European audiovisual industry," Reding said. "I will do my best to ensure that Europe's films can continue to count on solid EU support in the future, despite current financial limitations in the EU budget."

Foranalysis see this week's Screen International magazine.