U.K. enjoys biggest B.O. weekend ever

'Simpsons,' 'Transformers' pulls in audiences

LONDON — Boffo bows from openers “The Simpsons Movie” and “Transformers” combined with strong holdovers to deliver the biggest weekend on record at the U.K. box office.

The total take of £28,155,145 ($57 million) eclipsed the previous three-day best of $38.9 million posted in November 2005.

With U.K. cinemas packed to the rafters this weekend, biz leapt up 132% on last weekend and up 178% on the same weekend last year.

Homer and co. led the charge as the “Simpsons” comfortably landed top spot with a whammo $27.6 million (including Thursday and Friday previews of $9 million) at 499 screens. The $18.7 million Friday-Sunday take result was north of bookers projections and reps the third biggest opening for an animated pic in the territory.

Michael Bay’s “Transformers” did not disappoint either. Despite poor reviews, the CGI-laden actioner raced to $17.7 million at 456, including $7.7 million in July 21 and 22 previews.

The double whammy result vindicates Paramount and Fox’s decision to go head-to-head this weekend. In early summer some industryites Variety spoke with felt the date clash would limit one pic’s potential to bust blocks.

It wasn’t just the hyped tentpoles luring auds this weekend. Feelgood Broadway tuner adaptation “Hairspray” held impressively, dipping just 32% in its soph sesh for an $11.2 million running cume. The Entertainment release opened boldly and is benefiting from good word of mouth.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” felt the force of the two juggernauts. Slipping 57%, it was nudged into third place in its third weekend. But few exhibs are complaining about the running take of $76.7 million. Fifth “Potter” is expected to show good legs through the summer school hols.

On the arthouse circuit, eighth-placed Maggie Gyllenhaal starrer “Sherrybaby” proved a nice little earner for indie distrib Metrodome. Buoyed by upbeat reviews from the Brit critics, Laurie Collyer’s drama took $72,984 at just 13 for a healthy $5,614 screen average.

Upscale Gallic pics continue to enthrall Brit arthouse auds. Guillaume Canet’s tense thriller “Tell No One” slipped just 38% in its seventh outing, moving its cume to $2.1 million for Revolver. Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” has taken an impressive $2.5 million cume after six frames but now looks to be waning — it dropped off 53% this weekend.

May-July has been the rainiest on record in Blighty and more rainy weather this weekend helped boost biz as auds looked for indoor entertainment. Other than the England vs. India cricket test match, there were few televised sporting events to distract potential cinemagoers.

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