Final annualNorth American box office figures released by Nielsen EDI reveal that 2004 narrowlybeat 2003 by 0.5% with $9.21bn in total ticket sales compared to $9.17bn.

Despite weekend reports from other sources declaring 2004a record year, in the final reckoning Nielson EDI said this was not the case,which means 2002 remains the record-holder on $9.27bn.

Nielsen EDIcalculates annual grosses up until the Sunday after New Year's Day and its 2004figures ran from Jan 5 2004 to Jan 2 2005, while 2003 box office spanned Jan 62003 to Jan 4 2004.

Sony ended theyear as the leader on a $1.31bn total haul that accounted for 14.2% marketshare. Warner Bros was close behind on $1.22bn for 13.2% market share, whichincludes The Aviatorin Canada, and Buena Vista ranked third on $1.16bn and a 12.6% share.

No other studiopassed $1bn in domestic ticket sales in 2004, however DreamWorks enjoyed itsbiggest ever tally of $925.6m as the fourth ranked studio, powered by Shrek2, the year's biggestdomestic release on $436.7m.

Admissions in 2004 dropped2.4% against 2003 from 1.52billion to 1.48billion.