The once unthinkable prospectof the UK matching last year's record box office is now farmore likely after an astonishing half-term holiday run.

At the end of the thirdquarter, the territory was 4% down with little likelihood of finding the $460m(£261.5m) in the final three months to equal 2004.

Early disappointments like Kinky Boots in early October didn't helpoptimism.

But figures compiled byScreen International suggest October's takings will top last year.

Official figures are not dueuntil the close of the week at the earliest but Screen's figures are likely tobe conservative.

This year's $139.3m (£78.4m) isalready only marginally behind 2004's $140.2m (£78.9m) but the official Octoberfigures actually stretch to November 4 meaning there are still four days moretakings to include.

For the first of those days, October 31, figures suggest the top-three titles alone more than made up the deficit with acombined $2.1m (£1.2m).

The real praise for theOctober strength goes to half-term releases, and thoseof UIP in particular. The school holiday is always a boon for box office in theUK but this year's four family entries are far outstripping last year's evenafter just a couple of weeks on release.

Box-office leader Wallace & Gromit:The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit has proven everybit the phenomenon hoped for.

A three-week gross of $45.9m(£25.8m) has already taken the film well beyond UIP'sOctober 2004 DreamWorks title, Shark Tale,which had a final gross of $40.97m (£23.1m).

This would seem achievementenough but a week after Were-Rabbit, UIP released Working Title's Nanny McPhee.

Starring Emma Thompson andColin Firth the film, aimed more at girls than rival half-term fare, saw apowerful $4.6m (£2.6m) on its opening weekend.

However, while Were-Rabbit (-23%) and half-termcompetitors Tim Burton's Corpse Bride(-19%) and Sky High (-11%) saw onlysmall drop-offs as family audiences continued to storm cinemas for the finalweekend of the week holiday, Nanny McPhee managed an 18% week-on-week rise with $5.5m(£3.1m).

After 10 days the live-actiontitle had a gross of $17.5m (£9.8m) crushing the combined final total of lastyear's three half-term rivals to SharkTale, The Princess Diaries 2, 5 Children & It and Boo, Zino And The Snurks,which between them finished on $10.8m (£6.1m).

Nanny McPhee appears sure to beat Working Title's Pride & Prejudice figures too, whichcurrently stand on $24.9m (£14m) - of which $10.75m (£6.05m) was taken in October.

Between these two titlesalone, the competition between this year's and last year's October half-termhas been more than decided but Warner Bros' Tim Burton's Corpse Bride and BVI's Sky High have been adding to the coffersas well with $5.7m (£3.2m) and $3m (£1.7m) respectively.

Half-term family titles havenot been the only October promise. The Hallowe'enweekend brought another great horror performer from Entertainment FilmDistributors, Saw II. With an openingweekend of $3.9m (£2.2m) Saw II notonly outperformed its 2004 predecessor's debut by $1.8m (£1m) but it surpassedfellow opener The Legend Of Zorro($3.4m) despite the fact that Zorro's figures included four days of previewstotalling $1.25m (£704,400).

Perhaps unsurprisinglyfigures for Hallowe'en itself (Monday Oct 31) saw Saw II place first with an estimated $0.8m(£0.47m).

Entertainment ran a superbcampaign for the original Saw last year in the UK with final results totalling $12.2m (£6.8m) - equalto 22% of the US gross ($55.2m). Opening several weeks prior to the US (where it debuted for Hallowe'enon Oct 29) the UK was the worldwide launchpad (Oct 1) for Sawwhich went on to gross over $100m around the globe.

It was a triumph forEntertainment. After a strong launch most analysts would have expected Saw to see severe drop-offs but for thefollowing two weeks the horror saw consecutive 16% week-on-week slips - apaltry amount for any film, let alone a horror title.

With November and Decemberpromising three of the most promising titles of year in Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The WitchAnd The Wardrobe (which with heavy UK elements should play especially wellin the territory) and King Kongbreaking even may still be possible in this one European territory.