EuroPalaces held on to its status as top French exhibitor last year.

The company, a marriage between Pathe and Gaumont's cinema circuits, attracted 40.6 million visitors in its multiplexes across France for the year - out of total national ticket sales of 185 million.

The strong showing helped EuroPalaces' balance sheet as well, with a 4.3% rise in revenues from 2001 to Euros 290m.

While the company boasts 640 screens at 67 theatres across the country and its Pathe Belle Epine scored over 1.6 million tickets sold in 2002, rival circuit UGC still holds the top spots in terms of individual cinemas.

Number one site, UGC's Cine Cite located in Paris' Les Halles saw more than 3.1 million moviegoers pass through its turnstiles in 2002 and its Cine Cite Bercy in the 12th arrondissement of Paris came second with 2.6 million visitors. Belgian outfit Kinepolis held the third spot with its Lomme-based multiplex.

Overall, while moviegoing slipped somewhat - 0.4% below 2001 - the Film Francais reports that seven cinemas enjoyed a 10%-plus jump in attendance. With France nearing saturation in terms of multiplexes on offer, however, and construction tapering off for the time being, 63 cinemas reportedly note a decrease in sales.