UK cinema admissions were down 8.7% in the first quarter this year, according to the latest figures from cinema advertising body the CAA.

Admissions hit 8.3 million during the period, compared to just over nine million during the same period last year. Average admissions per week during the entire quarter this year were 2.75 million, against 2.99 million during the first quarter last year.

CAA said this quarter's fall was because of the growth during the same period last year, when average admissions swelled from 2.68 million a week in 1999. The body noted that three of the year's top ten grossing films were released during the first quarter last year but that only Hannibal is anticipated to make the top ten this year out of first quarter releases. Totals for the first quarter were also up 3% on the previous quarter.

After Hannibal, which made £6.5m, the top grossing films this quarter were Chocolat (£5m), The Gift (£3.9m), Miss Congeniality (£3.8m) and What Women Want (£3.3m). Average weekly attendances for March this year were 2.26 million, compared to 2.41 million visits a week during March 2000. January average weekly admissions this year were 2.62 million, while February averaged at 3.45 million a week.

The CAA predicts that cinema admissions in 2001 will reach 148 million - an increase of 4% year on year. "The blockbusters this year will be later in the year with Artificial Intelligence, Tomb Raider, Pearl Harbor, Planet Of The Apes, Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter," said Debbie Chalet, president of the CAA.