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U.K. sales pack ’em in

'Rings,' 'Potter' help boost 1st qtr tix 37%

LONDON — U.K. cinema admissions ballooned to 14.3 million in March, a staggering 43% increase year to year, due to a host of films delivering well. Led by “Ocean’s Eleven” bringing home £10.2 million ($14.8 million), other strong performers included “Monsters, Inc.,” which took $9.9 million, and the debut of “Ali G Indahouse,” $9.43 million.

Boosted by the continued success of the first “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” pics, first-quarter admissions are up 37%.

Continuing this success, Gurinder Chadha’s “Bend It Like Beckham,” about a talented young female soccer player, grossed $2.9 million at the U.K. box office over its opening weekend to take the top spot. Its take bested past openings for British hits including “Billy Elliot,” “East Is East” and “The Full Monty.” It stands as the seventh-highest opening weekend ever of a British film in the U.K.

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