The Italian box office grossed Euros 307,701,166 in the first eight months of this year, marking a rise of 7.79% compared to the same period last year, according to national film body Anica.

According to Cinetel, which monitors around 75% of screens in the country, admissions between January and August rose 5.8% to 51,607,414, Anica said.

Significantly, the number of days of programming rose an impressive 15%, while new cinemas continued to be be built at a healthy rate:

Cinetel registered 2,433 screens during the first eight months of the year, a 14.12% rise on the same period last year.

But as tempatures soared in July and distributors failed to release any potential blockbusters, box office earnings were hit by a 9.36% slump compared to last year, bringing total earnings for that month to Euros 14,410,314.

However, exhibitors' willingness to keep screens open in the summer was demonstrated by a 9.75% rise in the number of screens operating in July compared to the same month in 2002.

In August, many screens re-opened, bringing the number of operating screens to 1,925. This represented a 3.22% rise on last year's figures. July's box office earnings, however, dipped 0.5% on the previous year to Euros 16, 209,678.

By way of comparison, Anica pointed out that in Spain, 16.61% fewer tickets were punched at cinemas in the first seven months of the year compared to the same period in 2002, bringing the running total of admissions down to 65,237,413.

In France, Anica noted that admissions had slipped 9.3% between January 1st and June 30th compared to the first half of 2002, bringing the total down to 87,800,000. In June alone, Anica said, admissions in France slumped by 20.98%.