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UK Box Office avoids predicted ticket sales slump (2003)

Story by: Jack Foley

END of year epic, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and Richard Curtis' slush-fest, Love Actually, helped the UK box office to avoid a predicted slump in 2003, even though ticket sales did fall.

Following record receipts in 2002 of £812m, thanks to the likes of Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, there were fears that 2003's final take would be well down.

But after a late surge by films at the end of the year, there was a fall of only £2m, according to Screen International.

The figures also reflect sales in the US, which fell for the first time since 1991.

The UK box office was also buoyed by the success of films such as Pixar's family favourite, Finding Nemo, which proved to be the most popular film of 2003, with takings of £37.3m.

The Matrix Reloaded, the second in the trilogy, came second, with £33.3m, followed by Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, with £29.7m, which had only just opened at the time the figures were being collected.

Other sizeable hits were the British rom-com, Love Actually, which took £29.7m to make it the biggest UK film of the year, and the surprise of the Summer, Pirates of the Caribbean, which amassed £28.7m, easily beating early hopefuls such as Legally Blonde 2 and Charlie's Angels 2.

All eyes now turn to 2004, which could well suffer from not having a Lord of the Rings film to bolster it.

Of the films expected to do well, however, Spider-Man 2 should emulate, if not surpass, the success of the original, while there are also welcome returns for Shrek 2, Kill Bill: Volume 2, Harry Potter and, to a much lesser degree, Scooby-Doo Too.

And of the fresh blood, expect big things from the Brad Pitt/Orlando Bloom historical epic, Troy, and disaster flick, The Day After Tomorrow.

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