Theworldwide box office has slumped dramatically in the first six months of theyear, according to latest figures from Nielsen EDI.

TheNorth American and international box office was already performing poorlyaccording to first quarter figures. Updated figures for the first six monthsmake those first-quarter figures look positively rosy.

Thenegligible 1% first-quarter deficit in North American figures has now become adefinite 10% slump.

Key international territories such as Germany andAustralia have continued their slide. Germany was 11% year-on-year in the firstquarter, but is now 19% down. Australia is now down 14%, while Italy stands 18%adrift.

Spain had managed to remain on an even keel as thefirst quarter closed. At the end of June, however, it was 11% down on lastyear.

The UK - the one ray of hope after the first threemonths saw a 13% rise against the same period of 2004 - has since slid into thenegative, dipping 1% below 2004 first six months figures.

Despite day-and-date prospects like Star Wars:Episode III - Revenge Of The Sith, Kingdom Of Heaven, Mr And Mrs Smithand Batman Begins the second quarter of 2005 has proven a let down.

April saw a particular dirth of strong product inlarge part due to the fact that Easter fell in mid-April during 2004 but was inlate March this year. Australia suffered a 17% year-on-year dive during themonth, Germany 22% and Spain, where the absence of The Passion Of The Christhad massive influence in 2004 due to the country's largely Roman Catholicpopulation, a colossal 31%.

Summer 2004 was so frontloaded in May with VanHelsing, Troy and The Day After Tomorrow all hitting internationallythat even Star Wars couldn't make up the difference this year andGermany (-17%) and Spain (-12%) again saw deficits, although Australia manageda slight 1% gain.

While the second quarter of 2005 delivered one filmbigger than anything 2004's second quarter had to offer, with Revenge Of TheSith taking $371m from international markets by the end of June, it was theonly $300m plus hit 2005 had to offer in the period. By comparison, 2004boasted three: Troy ($333m from international territories by the closeof June 2004), The Day After Tomorrow ($313m) and Harry Potter AndThe Prisoner Of Azkaban ($343m).

These were backed up by another three $100m plusearners: Shrek 2 ($108m), Van Helsing ($142m) and The PassionOf The Christ, which claimed $178m of its $250m international cumulativegross during the second quarter of 2004.

In comparison 2005's second quarter mustered only two$100m grossers, Kingdom Of Heaven ($161m), an anorexic cousin to Troydespite dwarfing its own North America take of $47m, and Mr And Mrs Smith($103m). Batman Begins just missed out standing at $98.5m at the end ofJune.

Would-be second quarter 2005 blockbusters such as Sahara($45m), xXx 2: The Next Level ($42), The Hitchhiker's Guide To TheGalaxy ($39m) and Sin City ($33m) have so far not even matchedsecond quarter earnings for first quarter holdovers Million Dollar Baby($45m in the second quarter despite releasing 11 weeks earlier) and Hitch ($49m).

The Pacifier and TheInterpreter (both $76m) tried valiantly to provide solid support but eventhey had tough comparative 2004 competition in the shape of Scooby-Doo 2($90m) and Kill Bill Vol. 2 ($81m).

Now the world's distributors are looking to secondhalf titles to save the day from the likes of Fantastic Four and CharlieAnd The Chocolate Factory still to come in summer through autumn releaseslike UIP's Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit and Sony's TheLegend Of Zorro to November/December heavyweights including BVI's ChickenLittle and The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch And TheWardrobe, Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire and UIP'sKing Kong.

"In comparisonto last year I expect the fourth quarter this year to be very strong," saysVeronika Kwan-Rubinek, president of distribution, Warner Bros PicturesInternational.

Whether it will be enough to regain the lost ground,however, remains to be seen.

UIP's War Of The Worlds certainly started thesecond half of the year on a strong note taking $110.1m from 9,955 locations in79 international territories and a further $112.7m in North America.

Unfortunately despite this success it can't beoverlooked that it opened on the weekend Spider-Man 2 debutedinternationally in 2004 and while War Of The Worlds' opening was widerand bigger Spider-Man 2 grossed $410m in total from internationalterritories - a high bar to reach that only Jurassic Park ($558m) has surpassedof Steven Spielberg's films.

The year has a long way to go. Exhibitors anddistributors must now hope the only way is up.

For a full analysis of this year's worldwide boxoffice, see this week's Screen International magazine.