More than 1,000 multiplex screens a year are still being added to the European total, according to a report by industry analysts Screen Digest.

25,306 multiplex screens were in operation across the EU in 2002 - up 4.6% year on year.

The report predicts that within two to three years half of all cinema screens in Europe will be in multiplexes. Currently, 46.3% of screens are multiplexed.

Multiplex penetration in the UK is reaching saturation at around 67%. France has the most multiplex screens, but multiplex penetration there is average for Europe at 46.2%

With 20% of screens multiplexed, Italy shows plenty of growth potential - notwithstanding the problems that exhibitors are still having trying to extend the current 9-month cinema season.

Worldwide box office increased by 9% in 2002 reaching a total of $20.4bn, up from $18.7bn in 2001. However, at the same time, cinema admissions declined by 0.4% to 6.67bn globally - the third consecutive annual decrease.