Cinema attendance in the UK is up by 14.5% over the first half of the year, according to the latest figures from Film Distributor’s Association (FDA).

British cinemas racked up 83.4 million admissions in the first six months of 2009, 14.5% ahead of January to June 2008.

Cinemagoers spent more than $824m (£503.4m) on cinema tickets during the period and cinema visits in May 2009 almost hit the 16 million mark, equivalent to a quarter of the entire population of the UK. Unsurprisingly, the top week for cinemagoing in the first six months of 2009 was the week of half-term (February 13-19).

The FDA attributes the rise to a number of factors including the growth of digital 3D cinema and a strong awards season for UK films and talent.

The six month period saw the release of 3D films such as Bolt and Monsters Vs Aliens and the first quarter of the year saw high-profile BAFTA and Oscar wins for Slumdog Millionaire and actress Kate Winslet. Slumdog Millionaire alone attracted 6 million cinema admissions in the UK.

Other factors included an extended season of summer blockbusters such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Hannah Montana:The Movie, and heavy investment by UK distributors in releasing 238 new films during January to June.

The estimated total distribution spend of $251m (£154m) for the period includes $147m (£89.6m) on media advertising (10.7% more than in January to June 2008) and $105m (£64m) on film prints and making trailers.

FDA President, Lord Puttnam CBE, said: “2009 is building into a banner year for cinema in the UK. There’s a tremendously varied line-up to come in the second half and I think big screen audiences will have plenty to excite and entertain them.”

Upcoming films include Sherlock Holmes, Up, Avatar and The Twilight Saga: New Moon.