First-quarter figures for the UK box office have the movie industry in optimistic mood ahead of the summer season, it has been claimed.

Warner Bros releases I Am Legend - released on DVD this Monday - and Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd performed impressively with £13.4 million and £10.3 million in ticket receipts respectively, proving that declining box office figures in the US have not crossed the Atlantic.

PS I Love You, Juno and Cloverfield all broke the £9 million barrier and after the surprising reception for dance sequel Step Up 2 The Streets - with £8.7 million taken in its three weeks on release - the summer movie season could prove very profitable.

Following England's failure to qualify for the Euro 2008 football championships, cinema chains are confident of packed screenings during the summer months.

"We're highly optimistic about the summer," said Mark Batey, chief executive of the Film Distributors Association (FDA).

"Our research shows that UK audiences today regard going to the movies as an essential part of what defines their summer, and they love the fact that the summer spills over into May and June, not just the traditional July and August holiday season," he told Variety.

"Summer admissions through this decade are running substantially ahead of the 1990s," Batey added.

"Most of all, we're optimistic because of the terrific lineup of sequels and originals, which perhaps looks slightly more evenly spread out than last summer."

Major releases set to hit UK cinema screens from next month include Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

18/04/2008 10:05:39