By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News
The latest Harry Potter film is expected to swell UK takings further
Box office takings in the UK and Ireland are on course to exceed last year's figures, statistics published by the UK Film Council show.
Overall box office takings are already almost £100 million up on what they were this time last year.
Admissions between January and May 2009 were up 16% on the same period in 2008.
Film production is also on the up, with the total amount spent in the UK in the first half of 2009 - £535.1m - making this the best half-year since 2004.
However, there has been a "worrying" drop in international co-productions due to changes in film tax relief rules.
Currently, filmmakers are only able to claim tax relief on money spent in the UK, not their total budget.
According to UK Film Council CEO John Woodward, such legislation "stifles UK filmmakers from building international film partnerships and disadvantages them when filming abroad."
At the end of June 2008, the overall box office gross in the UK and Ireland has just passed the £400m mark.
Thanks to hits like Star Trek and Angels and Demons, however, takings for the first half of 2009 exceeded £500m.
Disney's Bolt was one of several 3D films released in the first half of 2009
According to Film Council researcher David Steele, there has been a "big push" to bring digital 3D capability into UK cinemas.
Films like Disney's Bolt and Monsters vs Aliens, he continued, had made this move "extremely rational economically".
The figures form part of the UK Film Council's Statistical Yearbook, which breaks down how UK films performed at home and abroad in 2008.
As previously announced, titles like Slumdog Millionaire and Mamma Mia! helped UK films make more than $4bn (£2.43bn) in worldwide box office takings last year.
Last year, Mamma Mia! - a UK/USA production - became the highest grossing film of all time at the UK box office thanks to its £69.2m haul.
When figures are adjusted for inflation, though, Titanic is revealed to be the box-office champ with overall takings of £85.9m.
Films that qualify as UK productions under Film Council criteria took 15% of 2008's global box office and 31% of the UK box office.
These include Batman sequel The Dark Knight and Bond film Quantum of Solace, which are considered British despite being largely financed by Hollywood money.
Films made and wholly financed in the UK represent only a small percentage - 3% - of the UK box office, however.
Indeed, evidence suggests that only one in 20 of independently financed UK films turn a profit, compared to one in five Hollywood studio productions.
While box office remains strong, revenues from DVD sales and TV exhibition are down 8% on last year.
At a press briefing in central London on Thursday, Steele attributed this to the impact of the recession on retailers and falling revenues from TV advertising.