Cinema-going in Scandinavia and the Baltic could explode by almost 40% by 2005 to hit $500m a year, according to the latest research from industry consultants Dodona Research. But, according to separate figues, local films may not benefit from the growth.

Dodona calculates that total admissions in 2005 could reach 58 million. In 2000, admissions rose to 50 million, compared to 48.9 in 1999 and 48.7 in 1998.

Dodona cites higher ticket prices and steady investment in new cinemas as driving overall growth. The region is seen as ripe for investment from the commercial sector, a traditionally high level of government ownership or subsidy having until now meant less investment in cinemas than in other countries.

But while the report highlights Norway as a particularly open market because cinemas are being increasingly privatised, the rise in overall admissions last year comes as Norwegian films' local market share slumped. According to the newspaper Dagbladet, Norwegian fare recorded a 6.6 % share compared to 8.8 % in 1999. The figure is thought to be one of the six worst results in the last 30 years.

Neverthless, Dodona argues that the overall market is already opening up as the four largest exhibitors in the region - SF Bio, Sandrew Metronome, Nordisk and Finnkino - develop pan-regional circuits.

"So far, Scandinavian exhibitors have invested cautiously in new cinemas, but this will be to their benefit in the longterm" says Katharine Couling, author of the report. "Steady development means the market is less likely to suffer the same over-building as has occurred in parts of Europe and the US."

Another factor is the potential for growth in visits to the cinema per person. Dodona argues that cinema attendance per person in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway tends to be below the European average. But cinema-going in the major Scandinavian cities is popular, with Copenhagen and Stockholm respectively recording 6.7 and 6 visits per person each year.

"This confirms our view that further investment in the right locations is likely to result in admissions and box office growth," commented Couling.

Only Iceland, already one of the world's leading cinema-going nations per person, appears to be levelling out. The country's 280,000 inhabitants visited the cinema an impressive 5.5 times each in 2000.

Osman Kibar in Oslo contributed to this report.