The 2019 admissions figure is just short of 2018’s 177 million, when U.K. cinema-going reached its highest level in 50 years.
The figures suggest that cinema-going is holding up in the market, despite the popularity of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon.
Cinema First said it is the third consecutive year that the U.K. box office has exceeded $1.63 billion (£1.25 billion). Since 2010, the U.K. box office has grown by 27% over the decade.
Box office takings were led by “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4,” “Joker” and “Jumanji: The Next Level,” in addition to British films including “Downton Abbey,” “Rocketman,” “Last Christmas,” “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” and “Yesterday.”
Cinema First also cited break-out successes such as “Judy,” “Knives Out,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” “Stan and Ollie,” “Fishermen’s Friends,” “Blue Story” and “Pain & Glory” alongside a burgeoning trend for big-screen reissues of restored classic films, including “Apocalypse Now,” “Alien” and “The Matrix.”
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The group gave technological innovation, a golden era of storytelling and a wide choice of high-quality cinemas as reasons for the high number of admissions in 2019.
It also noted that there has been investment in the U.K.’s cinema infrastructure, with more than 20 new sites opening across the country and more planned for 2020.
The market saw a strong close to the year, with the final six weeks of 2019 delivering 23% more box office revenue than the same period in 2018. Last year, 900 films were released in U.K. cinemas.
Iain Jacob, Cinema First chair, said: “The 2019 figures prove that cinema is alive and in remarkable shape with audiences having better access to a diverse film slate and massive investment making the big-screen experience better value than ever.”
Cinema First is the cross-industry body charged with the promotion of cinema-going in the U.K. Its core constituents are the U.K. Cinema Association, which represents local cinema operators, and the Film Distributors’ Association, representing U.K. film distributors.