British box office booming

Ticket sales up 26% this summer

Blighty’s wettest summer on record and a flood of popular film sequels combined to deliver the highest level of admissions for the June-August frame in 40 years.

According to the U.K.’s Film Distributors Assn., there were 50.8 million visits to theaters — up 26% on the previous summer, which was hurt by the soccer World Cup.

The admissions figures released today by the FDA follows a Sept. 7 announcement from Nielsen EDI that this past summer’s grosses were the biggest ever in the U.K. (Daily Variety, Sept. 10).

Eight of the 12 top pics over the period were sequels.

Nonsequel success stories were TV spinoff “The Simpsons Movie,” toy spinoff “Transformers” and Broadway tuner adaptation “Hairspray.”

Foreign-language fare chipped in. French thriller “Tell No One,” Edith Piaf biopic “La Vie en rose” and German surveillance drama “The Lives of Others” all saw notable success, with each topping 1 million admissions.

“These are sensational figures, unprecedented in modern times,” said a delighted Mark Batey, FDA chief exec. “The first eight months of 2007 have seen 116.5 million admissions — more than the whole of 1995 — while the autumn lineup, including ‘Ratatouille,’ ‘Stardust,’ ‘Lions for Lambs,’ ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age,’ ‘The Kingdom,’ ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘The Golden Compass,’ looks powerful and varied enough to make this an absolutely barnstorming year at the movies.”

B.O. biz since the whammo summer season has been remarkably upbeat for early fall partly due to a homegrown double act.

Entertainment Film Distributor’s Simon Pegg starrer “Run, Fat Boy, Run” opened well and has displayed muscular legs ever since, winning the last three weekend frames. And Joe Wright’s period romancer “Atonement,” from Universal, has made the most of excellent reviews and word of mouth for a running cume of $13.6 million after three frames.

ENDS

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