'Dark Knight' drives record frame

LONDON — The U.K. box office biz enjoyed its best weekend so far this year, thanks largely to the arrival of caped crusader “The Dark Knight.”

According to figures released Monday by the Film Distributors’ Assoc., 3.19 million people went to the cinema over the weekend. That was north of the previous best 3.04 million who visited July 4-6. Overall weekend grosses came in at $38.1 million, up 26% on the previous frame.

Bumper results were particularly impressive given the weekend weather was sweltering hot — traditionally not conducive to a rush on indoor entertainment. In fact, Sunday was the hottest day so far this year.

Christopher Nolan’s comicbook actioner “The Dark Knight” led the charge, opening top with a massive $22.3 million (including $5 million in Thursday previews) at 502 screens via Warner Bros.

Local helmer Gurinder Chadha’s “Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging” also opened in the top five, placing fourth with a bow of $1.9 million at 372.

Of the holdovers, “Mamma Mia!” was the standout performer. The Abba musical dipped just 38% in its third frame to move the cume to $49 million. Hold was all the more impressive as “Perfect Snogging” moved in on its teen girl demo.

Recent U.K. box office business has been upbeat with most summer blockbusters meeting or exceeding expectations. June 2008 admissions were up 5% on June 2007 thanks largely to the pulling power of “Sex and the City” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Buoyant recent biz supports claims that cinema can be remarkably recession resistant. While Brits may be shelving their expensive foreign holiday plans, the more affordable family treat of a trip to the cinema is still on the menu.

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