U.K. box office: Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler beat up ‘G.I. Joe’

It takes an ugly romantic comedy to best an action cartoon:

1. The Ugly Truth: £1.98 million (NEW)
2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: £1.71 million (NEW)
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: £1.35 million (4th week; drops 54%)
4. G-Force: £1.22 million (2nd week; drops 51%)
5. The Proposal: £.76 million (3rd week; drops 49%)

(actual numbers, not estimates)
How’s this for an ugly truth: more people went to see The Ugly Truth during its debut in the U.K. than saw G.I. Joe’s. Its nearest competitor in its debut weekend in North America — Julie & Julia — did only about a third the business as Joe. Maybe Joe’s just too American for British audiences… though the concept was clearly internationalized for the benefit of overseas audiences. Looks like that didn’t do it.

Truth had previews on Wednesday and Thursday, however, and if you minus out the takings of those two days, it falls about half a million pounds behind Joe for just the weekend. I don’t see the point in stripping out those numbers, though: they are clearly indicatative of the demand for the film, and we never fail to call a five-day opening a “weekend” in North America.

The Truth is pretty only next to Joe, though: next to other rom-coms this year, it fared poorly:

The Proposal debuted with £3.25m in five days (Wednesday to Sunday), and Confessions of a Shopaholic with £2.85m, also in five days. He’s Just Not That Into You began its run with £1.91m from three days (Friday to Sunday) and Bride Wars with £1.72m from three days. The Ugly Truth did however debut comfortably ahead of The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (£982,000) and the Renée Zellweger flop New in Town (£439,000).

That’s from Charles Gant at the Guardian’s Film blog, who also notes, about G.I. Joe:

The £1.71m UK debut is the lowest for any action blockbuster this summer, by a huge margin. Including varying amounts of previews, Wolverine and Terminator Salvation both opened north of £6m, and Star Trek just shy of that figure. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen kicked off with over £8m. The other big summer movies also opened well ahead of GI JoeAngels & Demons scored above £6m, Ice Age 3 in excess of £7m, and the latest Harry Potter with £19m-plus (all including previews). Night at the Museum 2 kicked off its run with over £4m. GI Joe is on target to be the only big summer flick that fails to reach eight figures here.

Hey, look at this! Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus opened theatrically on a single U.K. screen this past weekend. It earned £433. Which works on to a per-screen average of — lemme see… carry the one… — £433. Which is actually only slightly worse than the per-screen average that Land of the Lost “enjoyed” in its second U.K. week: £552 at each of 338 locations. That’s a plunge of 71 percent from its opening. (The Taking of Pelham 123 didn’t do much better in its second U.K. weekend, dropping 63 percent to end up at No. 6 this weekend.)

Overall business was down 37 percent from the same weekend last year, reversing the trend we’ve seen much of lately, when the U.K. box office has been up compared to last year while the U.S. and Canada was seeing a dropoff from the hitmaking box office of winter and spring. But this past weekend in North America, business was up about 18 percent over last year.

[numbers via UK Film Council]

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Thu, Aug 13, 2009 12:45pm

Wow I knew Joe would be a hard sell internationally but that is a surprize. I am sure the fanboy resonce will be something intellegent like “British people suck” or some other intellectual filled wordsmithing.

Yes, Joe fans have pissed me off today LOL. Sorry for the venom.

Thu, Aug 13, 2009 2:21pm

In the UK, GI Joe was rebranded as Action Man and made under licence by a different company. Hasbro eventually took it over and renamed the line Action Force, which was the name give to the cartoon. I think there has been some GI Joe merchandising in recent years, with Cobra featuring as well, but the vast majority of UK people have never heard of GI Joe. Indeed, the term GI isn’t used over here. That all pretty much goes for the rest of Europe as well. There’s loads of info on Wikipedia if you want to look it up.

In terms of brand recognition this is effectively a new movie in the UK – unlike, say, Transformers. If they were relying on the movie doing well in Europe, then they’ve really messed up.

Oh, and for most British people Action Man and/or Action Force figures are culturally British (usually a British soldier) so renaming wouldn’t have worked either.