UK admissions between January and June this year reached a 26-year high as cinemas punched 71 million tickets, according to the cinema advertising association monitor (CAA).

The tally is all the more impressive coming despite the dent in June's attendance levels from the European Championship soccer tournament. Ticket sales during that month fell by 30% compared to the same month last year, depressed by football fever, warm weather and a lack of high-profile releases as distributors avoided the tournament.

Despite Titanic's record-breaking gross of $115m during the first six months of 1998, admissions for this period were 2 million lower than this year, at 69.1 million.

Year-end ticket sales are forecast to reach 145 million, exceeding the 139m taken in 1999. The rise is predicted even though CAA estimated July's cinema-going levels will be 20% lower than last year due to the popularity of the Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace in 1999.