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‘Compass’ points to big U.K. gross

Opening day sees $1.9 million

New Line fantasy epic “The Golden Compass” got off to a fast start on opening day in Blighty, pulling in $1.9 million from 502 sites Wednesday.

First-day figure is the biggest for Entertainment Film Distributors outside “The Lord of the Rings” franchise.

Result compares with that of other fantasy pics, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” which took $1.7 million off 380 sites on Dec. 8, 2005 — a Thursday.

The “Compass” result was swelled by the popular Orange Wednesdays discount, which offers customers of cell phone operator Orange two cinema tickets for the price of one.

As a result, Thursday grosses are expected to be about 20% lower than the opening-day take.

“At this early stage, all looks good for ‘The Golden Compass’ — the big December release,” said a London-based booker. “While it is too early to jump for joy, the opening-day figure puts it on course for an opening five-day take of between £6 million ($12.3 million) and £7 million ($14.3 million) and a final gross of £30 million ($61.4 million).”

Pic faces little meaningful competition at the Brit B.O. this weekend — most releases are indies aimed at arthouse auds. Reviews from U.K. critics have been positive to mixed.

The Nov. 27 world premiere of “The Golden Compass” was attended by director Chris Weitz and stars Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, Freddie Highmore and Dakota Blue Richards.

Philip Pullman’s book “Northern Lights,” on which the pic is based, is a family fave in the U.K.

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