‘Devil,’ ‘Departed’ heat up Blighty

U.K. B.O. up 79% on the same weekend last year

LONDON — Boffo bows from “The Devil Wears Prada” and “The Departed” fanned the flames of Blighty’s box office revival this weekend.

Powered by the two big openers, overall business was up 22% on last weekend and up 79% on the same weekend last year. Chilly weather helped drive auds into the warmth of the theater.

The Oct. 6-8 frame was the second stellar weekend in a row. After a flat September, biz picked up with the Sept. 29 release of “World Trade Center,” “Click” and “Hoodwinked!”

The above expectations performance of a bevy of pics, including “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Departed,” “WTC” and “Click,” leaves bookers struggling to carve out screen space for Fox’s “The History Boys,” Entertainment’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning” and Sony’s “Open Season,” which all open this Friday (Oct. 13).

Casualties of the mid-October screen squeeze are UIP’s “Children of Men,” which hemorrhaged 52% of its biz and 11% of its screens in its third frame, and Pathe’s “The Queen,” which dipped 37% and lost 4% of its screens in its fourth frame.

Bookers concede they are having to foreshorten the life of some smaller scale releases such as Fox’s “Little Miss Sunshine” despite their proved stickability so as to accommodate the big guns.

Including hefty three-day previews of $1,978,861, “The Devil Wears Prada” took $6,114,300 at 447 and top spot. Bookers attribute the success primarily to the massive appeal to female auds but also joke that the film “basically appeals to anyone with a boss.” The pic has played particularly well in upmarket London locations such as Islington and Fulham — “areas where women love shopping,” suggested one exhib.

“The Devil Wears Prada” was well-reviewed: “You would have to be awfully high-minded not to enjoy the film. Hats off to Frankel and Alina Brosh McKenna for making the kind of movie that’s hard to find any more, one as snappy and juicy as fresh bubblegum,” wrote Anthony Quinn in The Independent.

Entertainment’s second-placed “The Departed” opened fantastically well, taking $4,300,606 at 363, which put it $165,167 ahead of “The Devil Wears Prada” when its previews are removed from the equation.

Bookers attribute the huge success to the cast, the director and the exceptional reviews. “At its core, ‘The Departed’ is a well-crafted, well-written, well-acted and fantastically directed film noir that is packed full of instantly quotable dialogue and brutal edge-of-your-seat action. It’ll blow you away,” promised Johnny Vaughan in the Sun tabloid.

Exhibs report that “The Departed” is attracting plenty of female auds despite the violence. But they are not surprised. “Does nobody remember ‘Titanic’? Leonardo DiCaprio still does it for the ladies,” said one. Bookers are hoping “The Departed” can go on to cume $20 million in the U.K.

“Click” held well in its soph frame, dipping just 29%. Bookers say the strong hold demonstrates that “decent big scale event comedies consistently deliver.” “Hoodwinked!” also managed to hold well, slipping just 33% in its soph sesh. The hold was particularly impressive given it faced direct com-petish from Sony’s “Open Season,” which did $824,954 at 422 in previews.

UIP’s “Accepted” disappointed on its opening, snaring just $654,727 at 249 for eighth spot. Bookers blame the lack of a household name in the cast for the soft bow.

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