Cinema admissions for theenlarged European Union of 25 member states rocketed to record levels in 2004,topping the 1bn mark for the first time ever, according to provisional figurescompiled by the Strasbourg-based European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO).

Initial estimates havelogged a year-on-year-increase of 5.87 percent, led by a stunning 11.6 percentadmissions hike in France.

Speaking at the 2ndEncounter of European Film Commissions on the eve of this year's Berlinale,Andre Lange, the head of EAO's department for information on markets andfinancing, revealed that first estimates indicate pan-European admissionsincreasing year-on-year by 5.87% from 950.2m in 2003 to 1.006bn.

In six of the leadingEuropean territories - France, the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and theNetherlands - admissions had climbed by an average of 5.9% from 758.1m in 2003to 802.6m last year.

France saw the biggest jumpin attendances among these six - by11.6% to a projected 194.4m -, followed by Italy (+6%), Germany (+5.17%), Spain(+4.1%) and the UK (+2.4%).

However, the Netherlandslogged a drop of 11.65% in tickets sold.