The UK could see its strongest box-office performance in four years in 2007 as first-quarter reports show a 10% year-on-year increase.

After 12 weeks, UK cinemas generated $379.4m (£193.7m) from 166 films, compared with $346.1 (£176.7m) in the same period of 2006, according to Nielsen EDI. That's the best first-quarter since 2003.

Recent years have seen the UK remain virtually static while other international territories have been more buoyant. In 2005, revenues of many territories decreased while the UK crept up by 1%. And in 2006 the reverse happened: a string of markets saw higher box office returns - particularly China which was up 31% - while the UK slipped 1.8% year-on-year.

Strong holdovers from the Christmas season, big opening weekends, solid local products have all contributed to healthy first-quarter activity.

The year kicked off with holdovers such as Casino Royale, which passed the $100m mark in January while family adventure Night At The Museum boasted $30m in box-office returns in three weeks. Happy Feet, released December 8, 2006, also hit the $30m mark in January.

A string of high-profile films saw impressive opening weekends in the UK. Rocky Balboa took $7.1m in its first weekend while The Pursuit Of Happyness generated a sizable $4.1m in its first few days. Music And Lyrics and Charlotte's Web opened at $3.7m and $3.6m respectively and action-epic 300 hit $9.2m in its first weekend in March.

Local cop spoof Hot Fuzz proved the UK can generate strong home-grown films at unusual times as the February release grossed $11.5m across 441 sites and has gone on to take $40.5m in the UK for Universal.

Last weekend, Mr Bean's Holiday built on positive first-quarter results as it opened with a whopping $12.6m (including previews) from 512 sites helping increase last weekend's year-on-year performance by 105.6%.

And summer sequels including Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Shrek The Third, and Spider-Man 3 are expected to generate large returns in the UK market while The Simpsons Movie will also boost revenue. Last week, two million people in the UK tuned in to watch repeat episodes of The Simpsons and if all of these went to see the film in its opening weekend, this could generate a staggering $15m.

Christian Grass, 20th Century Fox International's executive vice president, said: 'There's no reason why this shouldn't be a record year for the UK. It's a healthy market in terms of frequency of movie-going. Once the summer rolls around with all of these big films, we may see a record year.'