Britain busts box office records

U.K. set for big summer at cinema

LONDON — At the U.K. Film Distributor’s Assn. summer launch, a cinema trailer showcasing the highlights of the summer season was premiered, boldly titled the Ultimate Trailer for the Ultimate Summer.

Indeed, most of the chatter at the swanky June 6 Haymarket Hotel lunch — which was given a volt of star wattage thanks to Jude Law — was of the likelihood that this will be the ultimate summer on record in terms of cinema admissions.

The FDA is predicting a record-breaking 35 million people — more than half the population — will visit cinemas in July and August alone.

“Across the U.K., audiences are falling deeper in love with the cinema,” declared Mark Batey, chief exec of FDA. “This summer, when there is no major (soccer) tournament, local cinemas are offering the most compelling and enticing lineup for years. The U.K. is the world’s No. 3 cinema market, and 2007 promises to be a record-breaking year.”

The buoyant mood is partly due to the fact that U.K. box office biz has been going great guns so far in 2007.

According to an EDI Nielsen rep, total grosses to June 3 were up 6% to £355,726,674 ($708,716,868) from $671,324,327 for the same period in 2006.

Trade has been boosted by the recent strong perfs by the first two summer-season juggernauts — Sony’s comicbook actioner “Spider-Man 3” ($64.7 million cume so far) and BVI’s swashbuckler “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($58.3 million).

It’s not just the major studios filling their coffers. Indie distribs Variety spoke with report a strong overall start to the year.

“By April 10, we matched our total box office for 2006,” says Theresa Roberts, VP, publicity, Momentum Pictures. Strong perfs by “Miss Potter” ($13.3 million), “Arthur and the Invisibles” ($10.7 million) and “Amazing Grace” ($4.4 million) helped push Momentum biz to the $38.8 million mark set in 2006.

But can the run continue into summer?

“I would be surprised if this summer does not prove to be the biggest,” says Josh Berger, managing director of Warner Bros. U.K. “The big event movies bring in mass audiences who may then be drawn in to see other films.”

But industryites know there also is a likelihood of cannibalism from a summer sked crammed with blockbusters.

“Ocean’s Thirteen” opened over the weekend. Then comes “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” a week later (June 15) before “Shrek the Third” lands in Blighty June 29.

July sees a similar crush of big releases: “Die Hard 4.0” (July 4), “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” (July 13) and “The Simpsons Movie” and “Transformers” on July 27.

Significant releases in August include “Evan Almighty” (Aug. 3), “Rush Hour 3” and “Surf’s Up” (both Aug. 10), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (Aug. 17) and “Knocked Up” (Aug. 24).

Perhaps the release generating the most intrigue in the U.K. is “The Simpsons Movie.” Most concur it will do gangbusters biz if it can translate its four-quadrant appeal on the small screen, but some wonder if its core fanbase will wait for the DVD.

The other release generating huge buzz is WB’s “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.” The pic hits theaters a week before the eagerly anticipated last tome in J.K. Rowling’s series hits bookshelves. And Daniel Radcliffe’s daring nude turn on the London stage in “Equus” has helped build already sky-high “Potter” film buzz in Blighty.

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