France, Germany and now also the UK are seeing declining admissions in the first stages of 2003.

France's national cinema federation, the FNCF, released figures for the first quarter of 2003, showing a 9% decrease in ticket sales compared to the same period in 2002.

In February 2002, Asterix And Obelix: Mission Cleopatra was released and tipped the box-office scales early in the year. The film went on to be 2002's biggest local grosser.

This year, no one film has had the runaway success of Asterix - resulting in a drop from 52.5 million tickets sold to 47.9 million in the first three months of 2003.

Similarly, in the UK, where February saw a drop of 21% in admissions over 2002 (according to the Cinema Advertising Association), the decline was the result of February 2002 being the highest month on record since 1969.

However, industry insiders are predicting that figures for March will show a much steeper decline - as much as 40%, prompting a revision of year-end estimates to 180m from 182m

Meanwhile in Germany, according to unofficial figures, admissions for the first three months of 2003 were down 7.4%, while box office receipts fell 8.5% compared to the first quarter of 2002.

Nancy Tartaglione contributed to this article.