The UK could see its first fall in admissions since 1998 this year, with latest figures suggesting that upcoming releases may be too little too late to claw the territory past last year's record box office results and 30-year admissions high.
Two months ago the situation did not look so bad. At the end of the third quarter cinema advertising agency Pearl And Dean were predicting that admissions could reach 180m in 2003, ahead of last year's 176m.
Mid-way through October box office revenues tracked just 2.6% behind 2002 with industry insiders suggesting a strong final quarter slate including The Matrix Revolutions and The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King had the potential to make up the lost ground.
However November may prove the downfall.
The month started well: the Nov 7-13 week saw the opening of Warner Bros' The Matrix Revolutions, which provided a massive 160% improvement in box office takings on the comparative week of 2002.
Unfortunately this was not to last - the film dropped by 55% over each of the following two weekends. By the end of the month, after 26 days on release, Revolutions had pulled in $28.8m (£16.7m). The previous installment, The Matrix Reloaded, surpassed this figure in just nine days ($31.3m) in May and took $49.8m (£28.9m) in its first 26 days.
The week following Revolutions' opening was unlikely to match the comparative week of last year when Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets launched.
However with no major launches to challenge Revolutions - the biggest release was Columbia TriStar's 104 print run of Jackie Chan's The Medallion - and the drop off of the Wachowski's film, the Nov 14-20 week saw a 63% nosedive against 2002.
Despite a strong launch for UIP's romantic comedy Love Actually, the week of Nov 21-27 was also no match for 2002, lagging 36% behind the comparative weekend last year when Chamber Of Secrets' second weekend was backed-up by Fox's James Bond release Die Another Day.
As the final month of the year begins, prospects do not look hopeful. December's big release, Entertainment's The Return Of The King might hope to surpass last year's Two Towers, but it is unlikely to post a substantial improvement - and due to the film's Dec 17 launch date, there are no major openers on Dec 12. Freaky Friday's Dec 19 slot will look to provide the counter programming Sweet Home Alabama filled last year.
Box office is relatively unchanged (still 2% behind 2002) and Pearl And Dean and the Cinema Adverting Association (CAA) have dramatically revised their admissions prediction down to 165m for 2003. That leaves S.W.A.T., Brother Bear, Peter Pan and Cold Mountain as the final hope, but even the last two of these have just five days this year to make an impact. The battle for Middle-Earth may be yet to begin in 2003 but the battle for UK industry records could well be over. Here's to 2004.