U.K. box office: gone to the dogs with ‘Marley & Me’

The cute-puppy movie proves it doesn’t need a holiday weekend to win:

1. Marley & Me: £4.4 million (NEW)
2. Watchmen: £1.4 million (2nd week; drops 57%)
3. Gran Torino: £.82 million (4th week; drops 33%)
4. Slumdog Millionaire: £.76 million
5. The Young Victoria: £.63 million (2nd week; drops 38%)

(actual numbers, not estimates)
Watchmen’s drop over its second weekend in the U.K. wasn’t quite as steep as its drop in North America, but it wasn’t anything to cheer about, either. But Marley & Me opened even stronger than it did in the U.S., where it was able to take advantage of Christmas weekend — the movie enjoyed no such benefit this past weekend in the U.K. Perhaps we have in this flick the blueprint for the can’t-miss feel-good movie of the Great Recession.

(That £4.4 million number for Marley includes, by the way, the £.87 million the movie took in during Wednesday and Thursday previews. I find it interesting that in North America, only geek-aimed blockbusters get Thursday previews, and then typically only midnight shows — everything else that’s previewed here gets Saturday-night previews the weekend before the official opening. Are people more likely to go out to the movies on a weekend in the U.K. than in the U.S.?)

Unusual for the British box office, at least as long as I’ve been watching it, is that this week, boffo per-screen averages were earned by a few films not in wide release. In the City of Sylvia, a Spanish film that apparently came and went from NYC arthouses in December without crossing my radar, took in £5,788 from each of its two screens, second only to Marley’s £9,452 at 467 cinemas. A distant third was another indie, the Australian film Not Quite Hollywood, which earned £3,921 on its single screen. Then it’s back to Watchmen, with £3,334 at each of its 420 locations, but then back to the homegrown British arthouse flick Bronson (about a notorious criminal named Charles, not the Hollywood actor of the same name), with £3,040 at each of 85 cinemas.

The box office took a dive in the U.S. this past weekend, compared to how it had been performing since the beginning of the year, but the British box office held strong, with overall business up 51 percent over the last weekend last year. Thank Marley for that, I guess.

[numbers via UK Film Council]

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