Big British box office on horizon?

Summer slate gives FDA high hopes

U.K. box office gross for the first quarter of 2008 is on a par with the same period in 2007, according to figures to be released today by the Film Distributors Assn.

The biggest grosser was Warner Bros.’ sci-fi actioner “I Am Legend,”, which banked £13.4 million ($26.5 million) between January and March.

Gory musical “Sweeney Todd” — also from WB — was next best with $20.6 million, followed by romantic comedy “P.S. I Love You” ($18.8 million) from Momentum Pictures, Fox’s teen pregnancy pic “Juno” ($18.2 million) and Paramount monster movie “Cloverfield” ($18 million).

Easter week (March 21-27) trade was dominated by family-skewed offerings “Horton Hears a Who!” and “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” But teen dance sequel “Step Up 2 the Streets” was a surprise hit for Universal and is still going strong. Last weekend, it slipped just 25% in its fourth frame for an impressive $17.4 million running cume.

The solid first quarter showing has industryites in an upbeat mood going into the summer tentpole season.

“We’re highly optimistic about the summer,” said FDA chief exec Mark Batey. “Our research shows that U.K. audiences today regard going to the movies as an essential part of what defines their summer, and they love the fact that the summer spills over into May and June, not just the traditional July and August holiday season.

“Summer admissions through this decade are running substantially ahead of the 1990s,” Batey added. “Most of all, we’re optimistic because of the terrific lineup of sequels and originals, which perhaps looks slightly more evenly spread out than last summer.”

The prospects for a bumper summer are helped by the fact that none of the British soccer teams qualified for June’s European 2008 Finals soccer tournament.

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