It started well and so itfinished. Final box office figures for the UK/Ireland market reported today bystatistics trackers Nielsen EDI showed the territory had managed the seeminglyimpossible - it improved on 2004's record box office by 1%.

The Nielsen EDI results forthe official box office year - measured from January 7, 2005 to January 5, 2006 - showed the UK year finished on $1.44bn (£840.35m).

While admissions totals arestill unavailable and may well finish just short of 2004 these results are a triumph for the UK on two fronts.

Firstly it is an obviousexception to the general box office slide that has been seen in mature marketsduring 2005. As international territories' final numbers start to follow thoseof North America distinct year-on-year shortfalls are being seen thatno end of year recovery could combat.

Secondly these figuresinclude the Republic Of Ireland. Again final figures for Ireland are expected early next week butthroughout the year Ireland has seen figures more in line with the rest ofEurope suggesting that without Ireland's box office, which was approximately 11%-14% down year-on-year, the UK would actually haveseen a more definite significant rise.

The territory has been thegolden boy of the international market throughout 2005. Most territories werereporting significant drops by the close of the first quarter but the UK finished the first three months 13% up year-on-year.Results in the territory for UIP's Meet The Fockers and Sony's Closer (both opening in January) weredouble those of other international territories while the UK enjoyed Ocean'sTwelve ($21.4m) in February whereas most major territories had opened theall-star sequel in December of the previous year.

Results for the first threemonths were up each month compared to 2004 with January recording a 3% rise,February 19% and March 18%.

April brought the first dip(-21%) and while May rallied (+18%) with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxyand the first weeks of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith, June's 28% drop sawthe second quarter falling more in line with the rest of the world. This wasfollowed by a third quarter which failed to see a single month make gains on2004 equivalents.

However, a rousing finalquarter fuelled by British favourites Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit and Nanny McPhee in October (+16%), Harry Potter And The Goblet OfFire in November (0%), and a stunning December (+30%) saw any lost groundregained.

Every week in December sawimprovements on 2004 with the final week (December 30 to January 5, 2006) delivering $39.8m (£23.2m) - 53% up on the sameweek of the previous year.

With Harry Potter stillrunning and the massive success of end of year blockbusters King Kong andespecially The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, TheWitch And The Wardrobe (which finished fourth for the year after only 24 dayson release, see table) December was a phenomenon cracking the £100m mark. Thisis the first time this had been seen since July 2004.

With five films in the topnine of the year UIP was the clear market share leader with 29.3% of the territory'sgrosses accounted for by the major in its penultimate year of business in the UK. Fuelled by the territory's top earner, Goblet Of Fire, Warner Bros came second with 18.1%.

Top 20 films UK 2005

All figures in £

Rank Title DistributorRelease date Total gross

1 Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire UK-US Warner Bros Nov 18 £46,097,874*

2 StarWars: Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith III - US 20th Fox May 19 £39,322,053

3 Charlie And The Chocolate Factory US Warner Bros July 29 £37,357,715

4 The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe US BVI Dec 8 £34,286,830*

5 Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit UK-US UIP Oct 14 £31,956,705*

6 War Of TheWorlds US UIP July 1 £30,535,083

7 Meet TheFockers US UIP Jan 28 £28,661,816

8 Madagascar US UIP July 15 £22,654,878

9 King Kong US UIP Dec 15 £21,051,056*

10 Hitch US SPRI March 4 £17,393,848

11 Nanny McPheeUK UIP Oct 21 £16,428,714*

12 Batman Begins US WarnerBros June 17 £16,179,376

13 Pride & PrejudiceUK-US-Fr UIP Sep 16 £14,562,448*

14 Mr And Mrs Smith US 20thFox June 10 £13,584,214

15 Wedding Crashers US Entertainment July 15 £13,163,614

16 Fantastic Four US 20thFox July 22 £12,665,778

17 Ocean's Twelve US WarnerBros Feb 4 £12,448,665

18 Robots US 20th Fox March18 £12,326,511

19 The Hitchhiker's Guide To The GalaxyUK-US BVI April 29 £10,669,714

20 Valiant UK Entertainment March 25 £8,516,938

* Still on release.

Source: Screen International.