Following news that 2002's US box office is running some 20% ahead of last year, results from European territories are revealing some stark contrasts in box office fortunes for the first five months of this year.

According to the Danish Film Institute, 2002 could be the most profitable in 20 years for local exhibitors. During this year's first five months, admissions have risen by 30% compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, in Spain, admissions for the first five months are down by 14.5% from 2001's 58.7 million to 2002's 50.2 million.

And while both France and Germany have seen modest increases for the period - up 0.2% from 84.6 million in 2001 to 84.8 million in 2002 and up 3.4% from 62.2 million in 2001 to 64.3 million in 2002, respectively - the UK has enjoyed an increase of 23.7% in cinema admissions to the end of May over last year, from 61 million to 75.5 million this year.

In Italy, although admissions have been falling every month since December 2001, latest figures for May show an increase of over 22% on May 2001 with June following a similar trend with an increase so far of 20%.

The reasons for these dramatic differences lies, in part, in the combination of US blockbusters and local product available during the period.

Spain's steep decline of 14.% in admissions is put into context by the comparative lack of local films compared to last year. In the first five months of 2002 admissions to local films fell a massive 48% from 2001's 10.2 million to just 5.3 million this year - largely due to lack of Spanish titles on release.

Denmark's 30% increase, on the other hand, is the result of the twin engines of US blockbusters such as Lord Of The Rings, Harry Potter, Monsters, Inc. and Episode II, as well as the performance of local productions.

So far this year, Danish films have sold a total of 1.4 million tickets, close to last year's 1.5 million during the same period. And last year, local films hit a 20-year high with 3.6 million admissions during the whole of 2001..