Box office revenues across the seven major Western Europeanterritories are set to reach $5.5bn by 2008 according to a new report byindustry analysts Dodona Research - a rise of 42% on current levels.

Although the seven territories saw a combined admissionsslump of 50 million last year, box office revenues across Austria, France,Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland still hit almost $4bn in 2003,thanks to ticket price increases and the weakness of the dollar against theEuro.

Despite the drop last year, the report: Cinemagoing WesternEurope, argues that admissions are on the increase in the long term. "One pooryear is hardly evidence on which to call a fundamental shift of trend," saidreport co-author Karsten Grummitt. "While results in any given year are oftendetermined by the performance of just a few films, over the last decade,development of the multiplex sector has resulted in a growing market which weexpect to continue rising."

The bulk of screen and admissions growth is likely to be inPortugal, Spain and Italy, although slower than in recent years. The Swissmarket - which has yet to see substantial multiplex development - should alsoexperience accelerated screen growth, says Dodona, with foreign exhibitorsEuroPlex Cinemas and EuroPalaces working on plans for the territory.

According to the report, other operators planning to opennew cinemas include UGC in Italy and France, Warner Lusomundo and Medeia Filmesin Portugal and Cines Abaco and Cinebox in Spain.

The report also predicts consolidation for Western Europe:UCI's prospective sale may bring consolidation in the territories it operates,and with some other circuits experiencing financial difficulties there may beopportunities to come.

The message, says the report, is optimism: there's an upwardtrend in ticket prices, particularly in Portugal and Spain, and an increase inscreen advertising revenue as sales houses convert to digital technology.