British box office: ‘Pineapple Express’ opens at No. 1

You may have noticed that I’ve started running down (in the “recent screenings and hot movies” sidebar to the right) what’s at the top of the U.K. box office, and that I’ve been adding links to Region 2 DVDs on Amazon U.K. and listing new Region 2 releases in the “new on dvd” sidebar. It’s all part of the plan I’ve been hatching since I was in Paris in the spring to take a look, on a regular basis, at how pop culture is playing around the world. I was inspired by my experience in France with some very grand ideas about how to do that, but for the moment, it seems to make the most sense to focus my international attention on the U.K., where I already have a not-insubstantial readership (though I’d like to increase traffic from the U.K. some more), and where I already have an interest in the pop culture.

It’s yet another experiment I’m indulging in with

British box office numbers are not as readily available as North American ones, but it seems that the previous weekend’s figures are available by midweek. So here’s how this past weekend shaped up:

1. Pineapple Express: $2.5 million (NEW)
2. Mamma Mia!: $1.9 million
3. RocknRolla: $1.6 million (2nd week)
4. The Women: $1.55 million (NEW)
5. The Duchess: $1.51 million (2nd week)
It’s gonna take me a few months, at least, to get a handle on what typical British box office numbers look like, but I can offer a few comments right now. Pineapple Express, for instance, opened at about $23 million in the U.S. over the first weekend in August; though the U.K. has about 20 percent of the U.S.’s population, the movie pulled in only about 10 percent of the U.S. opening. What does that mean? That, as in the U.S., people are more likely to go to the movies in the summer than in the fall? That the movie wouldn’t have appealed to British audiences no matter when it was released? Or is it simply that fewer people in general go to the movies at any time of year in the U.K.?

Only two of the top 5 are British movies, neither of which is playing yet in the U.S. The Duchess — a costume drama starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes — opens in limited release this Friday (I saw it earlier this week). British critics like it okay: it’s currently 67 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which comes, at this point, mostly from the British press. And RocknRolla is Guy Ritchie’s latest crime comedy, starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, and Jeremy Piven — it opens October 8 in NYC, LA, and Toronto, and October 31 wide across North America. British critics like it slightly less than The Duchess: it’s currently 62 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

I thought I’d make time to see a movie when I was in Paris, not just to see a movie but to check out the moviegoing experience. That didn’t happen. I’d like to see a movie when I’m in England at the end of the month; if that happens, I’ll go for RocknRolla.

Oh, and Mamma Mia! has been playing forever in the U.K. — it opened there even before it opened in the U.S. It’s still playing fairly strong here — it earned $1.8 million in North America last weekend, and was still showing at more than 1,500 theaters (it was No. 12) for the weekend. But the flick made more in the U.K. with only 20 percent of the potential audience. Or else the world’s biggest ABBA fan lives in England and has nothing else better to do than go to the movies a lot.

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Thu, Sep 18, 2008 11:49am

Very cool, MaryAnn. One more reason your site is better and different than other movie-review sites. I love your experiments with various content, etc, even then everything doesn’t work out quite as hoped (micropatrons, for instance).

I look forward to learning more about British cinema along with you!

Thu, Sep 18, 2008 12:24pm

Actually, the micropatron thing worked out very well — the site simply outgrew the need for it, because other sources of revenue were starting to pay off (at least enough for me not to have to beg readers for money).

It never hurts for folks to click on an ad or two once in a while, though…

Fri, Sep 19, 2008 1:15pm

“Actually, the micropatron thing worked out very well”

Didn’t work out for me- I thought I was able to request a review, and I did, twice, but you never got back to me. I hope that doesn’t sound too whiny, but I can’t help but feel a little like I got scammed.

Fri, Sep 19, 2008 3:31pm

Yeah, I got some requests to review certain movies, and they’re still on my list of things to get to.

Scammed? Really? I never promised I would get around to reviewing everything that was requested, and I NEVER suggested that micropatronage automatically meant you could order me to review something. I’m really sorry you feel cheated, but — wow — I never thought any would feel cheated by helping to support a site that he or she was enjoying. That was the main idea behind the micropatron program.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
Sat, Sep 20, 2008 3:54pm

I’ve heard people at work talking about having been back to see “Mama Mia!” for third and fourth times. My mother was telling me on the phone the other day about having seen it with her best friend, who was seeing it for the second time. It seems to be a film that women are going back to see again and again here in the UK.

Sat, Sep 20, 2008 6:02pm

So it’s like a *Titantic* kind of thing. I can see that. I wonder why the same thing didn’t happen in the U.S., though. That’s a *very* interesting cultural divide that I would not have expected to see.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
Sat, Sep 20, 2008 11:58pm

I think Abba were just much bigger here, weren’t they? Didn’t they only have one number one over there?

Sun, Sep 21, 2008 1:34am

I think they had a few hits here. But maybe that’s the difference: they didn’t have enough of them.

Paul Hayes
Paul Hayes
Sun, Sep 21, 2008 2:36am

I think that’s the key. I wasn’t alive during the 1970s, so I can’t speak for sure, but they do seem to be one of the main cultural touchstones of that decade here in Britain. Certainly in terms of their position they occupy in the public consciousness and the affection in which they are held, they very much seem to be the Beatles of the 1970s.

Mon, Sep 22, 2008 3:20pm

I know that comes off as strong. Let me reassure you that I do like your site and did want to support it on its merits, and I probably would have donated either way. But being able to request a review was a big deal for me. I’ve been trying to get a review of Gargoyles, because Disney refuses to advertise it. This show is huge to me, and it’s being continued as a comic, but support is hanging by a thread. Imagine Dr. Who were on the verge of cancelation because the parent company refused to advertise, and the show’s producer told you that you needed to tell as many people as possible about it to keep it on the air. I saw an opportunity and I made a request about three years ago, and another several months ago, but never heard back. Now I didn’t mean to imply that you were deliberately trying to extort money from readers with false promises, but it does seem like you basically ignored my request. Again, I like the site and plan to keep reading (and no, I’m not asking for a refund or anything like that), but I am upset about this.

Mon, Sep 22, 2008 6:07pm

There’s just no way I can ever reply to all the email I receive, Jurgan. There’s just too much of it. I’m pretty sure I never told *anyone* who requested a review that I would definitely get to it. (Though I did always email to acknowledge micropatron donations, and to extend my thanks. So it’s not like there was never any communication from me about micropatron issues.)

And I would be more than happy to refund your micropatron money since you’re so upset about this.

I DO have your email requesting a review of *Gargoyles* in my “review requests” email folder. It’s not off the table. Though I have to say that most requests for review were for a single movie, not 39 half-hour episodes of something.

I appreciate that the show is “huge” for you, but to expect that my review would have any impact whatsoever on Disney or on the fandom of the show is optimistic in the extreme… as is the expectation that I will actually like the show.

All *that* said, I’ve added *Gargoyles* to the top of my Netflix queue. If I can manage to get to them soon, I will. I promise.