Asexhibitors prepare for next week's Cinema Expo in Amsterdam, a new report fromleading UK-based researcher Dodona Research says that exhibition growth isslowing across Europe.

Exhibitors in the seven Western European countries -including the five largest box office markets in continental Europe - profiledin the report have completed extensive multiplex building programmes and arenow concentrating on maximising revenues from their existing circuits.Acquisition and consolidation will be a key element in expansion plans in thenext few years, the report, titled Cinemagoing Western Europe,argues.

In Austria, for example, the major exhibitor, Cineplexx, hasembarked on a consolidation strategy acquiring a number of multiplexes fromother operators to cement its market share, particularly in the capital Vienna.In the struggling German market, many operators are continuing to dispose ofunprofitable cinemas.

The report comes as the UK is also in a state of upheaval.Having completed the building and expansion phase, cinema owners are offloadingtheir circuits to venture capitalists eager to get their hands on thecash-generating properties. Odeon Cinemas this week went on the block, whileUCI is also up for grabs.

There are exceptions, the reports points out. Italy, whichadopted the multiplex concept much later than most, still has numerousmultiplex projects on the drawing board. Likewise, since 2001, Portugal hasseen a second wave of cinema development take place precipitated by a shoppingmall building boom.

However admissions across all seven countries covered in thereport declined in 2003, compared to the previous year. This has largely beenattributed to poor film product but other factors include increasing piracy andeconomic recession in countries such as Germany and Portugal.

France this week showed significant improvement, withtheatrical admissions running at 11% higher than last year according to thelatest figures from the Centre National de la Cinematographie (CNC). Butterritories such as the UK are so far flat this year, while the Euro 2004football championship is likely to hit revenues this month.

"Exhibitors are hoping for a much better 2004, although thefirst part of the year has not been as successful as many had perhapsexpected", said report co-author Katharine Wright. "Nevertheless we areanticipating most markets will rebound to some extent this year and ourforecasts over the medium term are very positive."

Exhibitors at Cinema Expo will get a first look at filmssuch as The Terminal, The Chronicles Of Riddick and Hellboy whichthey are hoping will boost this year's box-office. The event, which runs June 21-24, willalso present this year's special award for excellence in filmmaking to DreamWorksSKG's Jeffrey Katzenberg. Other awards see BVI's Anthony Marcoly and StuartSalter collecting the prize for distributors of the year and Cinesa UCI's JoseBatlle being presented with exhibitor of the year. Zentropa's Peter AalbaekJensen is producer of the year and Jean-Jacques Annaud is internationaldirector of the year.