The UKbox office rose by 13% to £191.5m in the first three months of 2005 compared tothe same period last year, according to figures compiled by Nielsen EDI.
Themassive success of UIP sequel Meet The Fockers and a wealth of solidsupport largely account for the impressive rise. The figures put the UK on course to surpass 2004 record boxoffice of £838.7m.
Manyanalysts predicted that the year's first quarter figures might struggle tomatch those of 2004, largely because of the he lack of a December holdover LordOf The Rings film for the first time after three consecutive years.
However,the top ten films of the first quarter (see below) show an even split of strongtitles across the three months and all distributors.
The yearstarted strong with the wide release of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator(after two weeks on a single site platform), Entertainment's supernaturalthriller White Noise and Momentum Pictures' Vera Drake (£2.1m) onJanuary 7. The first month finished 3% up year-on-year and saw Meet The Fockerscome in at the end on Jan 28.
Fockers fuelled February and was ablysupported by Warner Bros' Ocean's Twelve and a slew of school half-termreleases. Momentum Pictures' Racing Stripes opened a week ahead of theholiday and is the distributor's second highest grossing film of all-time.
It wasfollowed for the holiday week by Pathe's The Magic Roundabout and UIP's TheSpongeBib SquarePants Movie with all three taking over £5.5m. The monthfinished with figures 19% up year-on-year.
Marchwas also up (18%) led by Sony's Hitch and Fox's Robots.
Thestrength is not only shown by titles on the top ten, however. Entertainment's MillionDollar Baby and Warner Bros' Constantine also passed £5m, whileUIP's Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events led the 2004holdovers (excluding The Aviator) with £4.3m taken in 2005.
Foreign-languagefilms were ably represented with Pathe's House Of Flying Daggers taking£2m of its £3.7m total gross in 2005, while its stablemate The Chorustook £0.63m. There were also solid Bollywood titles from Eros International (Bewafaa,£0.5m) and Yash Raj Films (Black, £0.43m).
Thesummer season kicks off early in April with BVI's The Hitchhiker's Guide ToThe Galaxy (Apr 28) and Sony's xXx2: The Next Level (Apr 29) and amass of strong summer titles such as Fox's Star Wars: Episode III - RevengeOf The Sith and UIP's War Of The Worlds to come plus end of yearsupport from Warner's Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and UIP's KingKong.
2005already looks good to be a record year.
TopTen Films in UK - First Quarter 2005
Title(Dist) Release date First Quarter Gross
1 MeetThe Fockers (UIP) Jan 28 £28.5m
2 Hitch(Sony) Mar 4 £12.9m
3 Ocean'sTwelve (Warner Bros) Feb 4 £12.4m
4 Closer(Sony) Jan 14 £8.3m
5 TheAviator (BVI) Dec 24, 04 £8.1m
6 Robots(20th Fox) Mar 18 £7.4m
7 WhiteNoise (Entertainment) Jan 7 £6.5m
8 TheMagic Roundabout (Pathe) Feb 11 £5.8m
9 RacingStripes (Momentum) Feb 4 £5.7m
10 TheSpongeBob SquarePants Movie (UIP) Feb 11 £5.5m
NB:Figures as of March 31. All titles except White Noise still on release.