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cultural vandal | by maryann johanson

British box office: ‘Tropic Thunder’ opens at No. 1

My experiment with exploring global box office numbers continues. I think I’ll eventually start looking at numbers beyond North America and the U.K., but I’m trying to get a hold on what the U.K. numbers mean first.

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. Tropic Thunder: $4.6 million (NEW)
2. Mamma Mia!: $1.3 million
3. The Women: $1.1 million (2nd week)
4. Pineapple Express: $1 million (2nd week)
5. The Duchess: $.96 million (3rd week)
I’m guessing that this is probably something to note: it looks like around a third of everyone who went to the movies in the U.K. over the past weekend went to see Tropic Thunder, which earned, on its own, $4.6 million of the $12.3 million the top 10 movies earned. And its per-screen average of $9,970 in each of 460 theaters was more than twice that of its next nearest competitor, the Holocaust drama The Boy in Striped Pajamas, at No. 6 with a per-screen of $4,632 in each of 180 theaters. Hollywood making fun of itself has international appeal, it seems.

Last week I talked about the odd fact that Mamma Mia! continues to do so extraordinarily well in the U.K., earning about the same amount in the U.K. in recent weeks as it’s earning in the U.S. despite have only 20 percent of the potential audience. But I realize that I actually sold Mamma Mia! short: its potential audience was an even smaller percentage than I said. I forgot that the “domestic” box office is really the “North American” box office, meaning the U.S. and Canada. So that adds about another 30 million or so people into the North American mix who didn’t go see Mamma Mia!, leaving our British brethren to pick up even more slack.

It suddenly occurs to me whether these numbers — which are in American dollars — look better than they might if the dollar weren’t in the tank at the moment. I paid $202.02 for £100 the other day, which nearly made me choke. A rising dollar likely wouldn’t change the price of a movie ticket in pounds, nor would it likely change the number of tickets sold to any given movie… it’s just that the dollar figures would look lower. This is probably more than I need to be worrying about here: the numbers are, after all, mostly important relative to one another during any given week. And anyway, having to factor in the global economic situation is waaaay higher finance than I can manage.

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