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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

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 FlickFilosopher.com.

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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