CINEMA `Star Wars' an intergalactic success

Luke Skywalker's return to Earth helped boost cinema admissions by more than 5 per cent, it was announced yesterday. The hero of the 20- year-old sci-fi adventure Star Wars, re-released in late March, boosted audiences dramatically.

Official figures show the number of admissions in the first quarter of 1997, compared with those for the previous quarter, increased by 5.6 per cent, to 26.3 million.

But other films, like 101 Dalmatians and Mel Gibson's Ransom could not halt an annual slide in audience numbers.

Between the first quarter of 1996 and the first quarter of 1997, the seasonally adjusted figures decreased from 29.6 million to 24.7 million - a fall of 16.6 per cent.

Figures for the second quarter are also likely to show an increase, following the re-release of the Star Wars sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.