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British B.O. sees sharp drop in May

'Iron Man', 'Indy' numbers not included in count

While the U.S. box office is reporting unexpectedly good numbers, admissions are down in Blighty and heading toward an eight-year low.

The latest figures released by Carlton Screen Advertising recorded May admissions down 19% to 12.7 million compared with 15.7 million in May 2007 and a 7% drop overall since the start of the year.

Were that trend to continue throughout the year, it would mean 11 million fewer people going to the cinema, with the total figure dropping from 162 million in 2007 to 151 million, the lowest total since 2000.

Admittedly, May 2007 admissions were buoyed by threequels “Spider-Man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” which made the month a record-breaker.

And while “Iron Man,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “Sex and the City” all have posted boffo business in the U.K., they opened toward the end of May so their figures won’t have an impact until June’s numbers are released.

Concerns over the state of the economy, underperforming pics such as “Speed Racer” and good weather — which keeps Brits out of multiplexes — have all impacted U.K. figures.

Local film execs, however, are upbeat.

“Reading too much into May-on-May comparisons is unwise,” said Andrew Cripps, president of Paramount Pictures Intl. “If, at the end of the year, admissions are down 19% then that is cause for concern. That hasn’t happened yet. You can only measure the summer at the end of the summer.”

A slew of much-anticipated pics are rolling out in the coming weeks, including “Wall-E,” “Mamma Mia” and “The Dark Knight,” all of which point toward another potentially stellar summer season, despite its slow start.

An upbeat Cripps talked up “Kung-Fu Panda,” which Paramount launches in U.K. theaters Friday and drew attention to the solid June 27-29 opening weekend posted by Disney’s “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”

Also bowing big last weekend was Timur Bekmambetov’s assassins actioner “Wanted” (Universal). Pic, which stars Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman and fast-rising Brit thesp James McAvoy, reeled in $7.5 million at 412 playdates.

And it’s not only Hollywood fare drawing Brits.  

Writer-helmer-star Noel Clarke’s gritty urban teen gangsta pic, “Adulthood,” has banked a very impressive $4.7 million for distrib Pathe in its first 10 days. A core aud of teens has responded to this sequel to cult homevid success “Kidulthood.”

The London-set pic also has attracted auds by addressing the problem of rising teen crime, a subject rarely out of the U.K. news.

“I think Noel has captured the voice of a generation and made a film that captures the zeitgeist of its time,” the pic’s producer Damian Jones told Daily Variety.

The outlook is also looking good for later in the year.

“We’re also seeing the return of Bond for ‘Quantum of Solace’ as well as ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ and the teen sensation that is ‘High School Musical 3,’ ” Carlton’s Danielle Mather said.

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