LONDON — U.K. box office grosses last year totaled $1.78 billion (£904 million), up 8% on 2006 and the biggest annual haul ever.

Boffo result, revealed by Nielsen EDI, was largely due to the success of Hollywood sequels released over the summer.

Top earners were “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” ($97.4 million), “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($79.7 million) and “Shrek the Third” ($76.1 million).

TV spinoff “The Simpsons Movie” came in fourth with $75.9 million followed by another three-quel — “Spider-Man 3” ($66.1 million).

Top distrib with a 15.6% market share was Warner Bros. Top WB earner was fifth Potter pic “Order of the Phoenix.” Other leading WB performers were “Beowulf,” “300,” “Music and Lyrics,” “Ocean’s 13,” “Blood Diamond,” “Fred Claus” and “I Am Legend.”

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WB pipped rival studio Paramount Pictures International to the post thanks to a strong finish to December spearheaded by Will Smith starrer “I Am Legend.”

The post apocalyptic zombie thriller grossed $21.8 million in the five days following its record-breaking Boxing Day launch. Cume up to Jan. 6 stands at $36.4 million.

PPI managed a second-best 14.7% market share thanks to strong perfs by “Shrek 3,” “Transformers” and “Stardust.”

Third best performing distrib was Universal Pictures International with a 13.9% market share. Top earners were “The Bourne Ultimatum,” and Brit comedies “Mr Bean’s Holiday” and “Hot Fuzz.”

Fox came fourth with a 13.8% share and Disney fifth with 10.7%. Sony Pictures Releasing International banked 8.2% of grosses.

“2007 was a highly encouraging, if intensely competitive, year in U.K. cinema,” commented Mark Batey, chief executive, Film Distributors’ Association. “The rise in box office and admissions shows that when audiences are looking for premium quality indoor entertainment, the cinema delivers spectacularly.”

A whammo summer blockbuster period was the spine of the year’s startling B.O. success.

The summer — taken as the 18 full weeks following the Friday of the first public holiday weekend in May — clocked a total gross of $763,992,879 (£377,965,438) and estimated admissions of 75,291,920. Those results were 18% ahead of summer 2004 — the previous best — which amassed a total gross of $643,415,147 and 70,865,069 estimated admissions.

Persistently dreary, rainy summer weather and the fact that there was no major soccer tournament, such as the World Cup or European Championships, to distract potential cinemagoers also helped boost B.O.