The season of blockbustersopened in fine style with UIP's Van Helsing charging into the Germanbox-office chart at No. 1 with a whopping $ 9,813 screen average from its 742screens, while last week's top film, Columbia TriStar's 50 First Dates,was the only release to muster any competition with takings of around $ 1.5mfrom just under 200,000 tickets sold.

Another UIP release, MichaelOrr's Schultze Gets The Blues, continued on its modest, but successfulpath: the 200,000 admissions mark is in sight in its third week and it oncemore scored the best screen average apart from the No. 1 film.

Van Helsing's domination of the box office does not augur well forexhibitors and distributors offering non-blockbuster fare, who see theexistence of their releases squeezed out of the audiences' consciousness.

But those cinemas who havebooked this film and other big summer titles like Troy, The Day AfterTomorrow, Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Askaban and Spider Man 2will be hoping that they reverse the worrying negative trend of the first threemonths of 2004.