Annual figure marginally better than predicted

LONDON — The final count is in, with U.K. cinema admissions ending 2003 at 167.3 million, 4.9% down on 2002 but still the second highest tally for 30 years.

The figure is marginally better than predicted thanks to a huge December at the box office, with ticket sales reaching 18.8 million for the month, the best December total since 1966.

The total annual gross edged down 2% to £742 million ($1.35 billion), a figure that has nonetheless more than doubled over the past decade.

Nine films earned over £20 million ($36 million), down from 12 in 2002. The top pics in 2003 were “Finding Nemo,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” and “The Matrix Reloaded.”

The figures were compiled by Nielsen EDI and published by the Cinema Advertising Assn.

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