Malaysia's box office has soared 24% in the first sixmonths of the year, bucking the worldwide trend of a double-digit slumpsuffered by most key international markets.

2005 is set to be the biggest year ever for Malaysiawith the box office expected to reach an all-time high of $61m (RM232m).

In the first six months, its box office was worth $30m,compared to $24m from the same period last year. Last year's total gross was $52.6m.

Malaysia has been enjoying a box office boom for thepast few years: a 19% year-on-year rise in 2004, 15% in 2003 and 28% in 2002.

UIP managing director for Malaysia and SingaporeNicholas Yong attributed the spectacular growth to the release of more titleswith subject matters appealing to the Malaysian audience. Kungfu Hustle, Spider-man 2, The Day After Tomorrow as well as therecent Madagascar and War of the Worlds were all box officehits in Malaysia.

The opening of new cinemas has also fuelled the growth.Late last month, the country's largest cinema chain GSC opened a 13-screenmultiplex with 2,168 seats at 1 Utama shopping centre in the outskirts of KualaLumpur, making it its third new cinema in the last 18 months.

GSC added a nine-screener in downturn Kuala Lumpurearlier this year and a 12-screener in Penang last year, in addition to theopening of three independent cinemas with a combined 12 screens. Malaysia nowboasts a total of 256 screens.

Over in neighbouring Singapore, box office dipped 3%to $32.5 (S$55m) in the first six months. The city-state has been sustaining box office gains for the past four yearswhich saw an average of 7.7% per annum growth.

Malaysia: Top10 films as at 13 July 2005*
1. Star WarsEpisode 3: Revenge of the Sith

2. War of the Worlds

3. Chandramukhi

4. Constantine

5. Madagascar

6. BatmanBegins
7. Mrand Mrs Smith

8. Initial D

9. Anniyan

10. Seoul Raiders

* Box office figures not available

Singapore: Top 10 films in the first six months of2005

1. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (S$4.1 million)

2. Madagascar (S$3.6 million)

3. Constantine (S$2.8 million)

4. Mr and Mrs Smith (S$2.6 million)

5. Batman Begins (S$2.5 million)

6. Hitch (S$2.2 million)

7. I Do, I Do (S$1.8 million)

8. Kingdom of Heaven (S$1.8 million)

9. Initial D (S$1.5 million)

10. The Eye 10 (S$1.3 million)