Despite a 7% increase of 200 new cinema screens last year, the UK's exhibition sector continued to struggle with sluggish market growth of just 3%, according to industry analysts Dodona Research.

This is just the latest confirmation of a trend of industry supply growing faster than demand, that is afflicting many exhibition markets, notably in the US, but increasingly evident in continental Europe.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland saw an admissions increase of nearly 20%, against a screen growth of just 3% over the same period.

And while ticket prices in the Republic of Ireland were pushed up by 6% in 2000, prices in the jittery UK market were held at 1999 levels. They now average $5.8 (£4.08)

But with another 377 multiplex screens scheduled to be unveiled in 2001, observers are sceptical whether some exhibitors will pursue their stated development plans. Some screens will be delayed, says Dodona's Karsten-Peter Grummitt, while others may be cancelled altogether where possible.

"There is a level of dismay in the industry at the current level of commitments combined with a weak market," he says.