The international growth in cinema admissions during 2001 seems to be continuing this year, according to new research, with double digit growth rates in a number of major European markets.

Latest figures from industry research publication, Screen Digest, show that cumulated admissions in eight major territories are up by 12.2% for the first half of 2002. But while some markets are performing particularly well, the growth is not shared by all territories.

Best performing country surveyed was the UK, where admissions have jumped 25% to 87.7m for the first six months of 2002 compared to last year. According to Screen Digest, the UK is now the second biggest market in Europe in terms of admissions - overtaking Germany for the first time since the 1970s.

European market leader France saw 99.6m tickets sold in the first half of 2002 - more than in any other half-year period in a European country for nearly 20 years.

However, in both Spain and Italy, cinema admissions have fallen in the first half compared to last year, with Spain seeing a 0.5% fall off and Italy a massive 11.3% slide.

Elsewhere the situation is even gloomier. In Argentina, dollar revenues for 2002 are expected to be even worse than for 2001 (which saw a 24% slide from 2000), owing to the collapse of the peso against the dollar.

Now, film distribution and exhibition companies in Argentina are virtually giving away cinema tickets in an attempt to boost declining attendance.

In a country where half the population has fallen below the poverty line, movie-going has become a luxury a growing majority cannot afford.

To entice people, distributors and exhibitors have formed alliances with an array of companies including McDonalds, supermarket chains, banks, beer manufacturers, newspapers and debit cards.

In one recent example, Bernardo Zupnik's indie Distribution Company arranged a tie-in with Coto Supermarkets whereby a customer could get two tickets for the price of one to Adolfo Aristarain's Lugares Comunes (a recent San Sebastian winner) after purchasing just Five Pesos ($1.33) worth of goods. According to Zupnik, the film, now on its fourth week, has attracted some 180,000 admissions of which 30% were brought in by the 2x1 promo.

Among major film companies, Village Roadshow has formed a tie-in with Banco Rio and Visa Electron whereby movie-goers who pay for their tickets with the debit card get a 50% discount. Daily newspaper Clarin publishes coupons for discounted tickets to Monday screenings at the Village circuit.

The list goes on, beer company Cerverceria Quilmes will offer free ticket coupons with the purchase of a six pack. Nestle products carry coupons for discounted tickets. Even buying Duracell batteries will get you two tickets for the price of one. Asked why they don't simply reduce the price of tickets, exhibitors say movie-goers need to feel they are winning something in exchange for their custom.

Additional reporting by Anna Marie de la Fuente