Malaysia is on track to produce yet another record-setting year with the total box office expected to sail past the $91.2m (RM300m) mark for the first time in its history.

A growth of at least 20% year-on-year is estimated, which would make it the seventh consecutive year with double-digit growth in box office since 2001.

The growth was for the most part spear-headed by three Hollywood blockbusters which shattered box office records over the summer season to emerge as the top three films of the year. These included Transformers ($5.58m/RM18.34m), Spider-Man 3 ($5.10m/RM16.8m) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($4.1m/RM13.6m).

Ahmad Idham's horror Don't Look Back also set new records to become the top local film with more than $1.83m (RM6m) box office takings.

The consistent box-office boom was primarily fueled by continuous multiplex expansion. A record high of 88 new screens were added last year alone, bringing the total to 368 screens nationwide, compared to around 200 screens three years ago.

All exhibitors are outdoing one another in building new cinemas.Leading the charge is Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) which opened four new cinemas in Penang and Kuala Lumpur that accounted for 36 of the new screens from last year.

Other major exhibitions also expanded their circuits - TGV opened in a couple of locations around Kuala Lumpur, MBO opened in Kluang and Malacca and Cathay added more screens to a Penang site while Star Cineplex tapped new markets in Sandakan and Tawau, both in East Malaysia.

Looking forward, GSC general manager Irving Chee is upbeat that 2008 will turn out to be another stellar year. 'Given the strong lineup and no fewer than 50 new screens set for 2008, it will be another year with double-digit growth - barring economic slowdown,' he said.