Brits seek relief from grief at theaters

Not even the terror alert, the heavily viewed TV “Concert for Diana” or Wimbledon could keep U.K. audiences away from moviegoing this weekend, with “Shrek the Third” breaking records in its launch.

Opening was the biggest ever for an animated pic in the territory and the third biggest overall behind those of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”

Not even the unfamiliar sight of armed police across London, where the security crackdown is in full effect, put off filmgoers.

Unfortunately, Brits are all too accustomed to terrorist threats, so fears of a dip in B.O. didn’t play out. But another factor was something else with which Brits are all too familiar: rain.

The damp weekend weather across the country had people opting for indoor activities and helped drive box office northward.

“Shrek” took in $33.6 million at 536, according to figures released Monday by Nielsen EDI. Those three-day figures include previews that generated a total of $12.8 million on June 23, 24 and 28; “Shrek 2″ previewed for one less day in 2004.

Pic edged past “Shrek 2,” which opened to $32.7 million en route to an $88 million final cume in the territory.

Celebrating the box office success of “Shrek the Third,” Chris Hedges, managing director of Paramount Pictures U.K., pointed to “the powerful combination of the Anglo-Saxon humor and very strong U.K. cast involvement.”

You can’t do numbers like that unless there is a huge appetite for the film,” Hedges said. “Although the weather was favorable, ‘Shrek the Third’ did huge business on Sunday up against the televised ‘Concert for Diana.’ “

The concert, organized by princes William and Harry as a tribute to their mother, who died a decade ago, aired live on BBC1 from 3:30-10:30 p.m., peaking at almost 15 million viewers as it drew to a close.

Some exhibs predicted Eli Roth’s gruesome horror pic “Hostel: Part II” would prove too much to stomach on a weekend dominated by security concerns, but the Sony release opened boldly, taking $1.4 million at 263 for a $5,225 screen average. Its core aud of red-blooded males supported the grisly slasher.

Summer tentpoles “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” came in second, third and fourth, dipping 39%, 32% and 29% in their third, fourth and sixth frames, respectively.

And it wasn’t just popcorn movies packing theaters — indie distrib Icon expanded upscale Gallic offering “La Vie en rose.” The Edith Piaf biopic dropped just 12% in its soph sesh for a $1.1 million cume.

As part of the “ring of steel” security measures, concrete vehicle blockers have been erected at potential targets, such as the entrance to the All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, where the Wimbledon championships are being held this week.

Some 5,000 police will be on patrol this weekend as more than half a million spectators are expected to line London’s streets for the start of the Tour de France cycling race. Security has been stepped up for the Live Earth gig at Wembley, north London, where 70,000 revelers are expected.

Mobile phone records have been recovered from the London cars containing the bombs that failed to explode Friday, leading to eight arrests.

The gang’s ringleader and mastermind is alleged to be Dr. Mohammed Asha, a Saudi neurosurgeon working in England. He was arrested Saturday in a dramatic operation that saw police cars box in his car on a motorway.

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