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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 November 2005, 11:08 GMT
UK cinemas enjoy box office high
By Ian Youngs
BBC News entertainment reporter

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire premiere
Three million people saw the new Harry Potter film at the weekend
More people went to the cinema in the UK and Ireland last weekend than at any point in the last 20 years, the Film Distributors' Association has said.

As much of the world suffers a box office slump, 3.8 million people in the British Isles bought cinema tickets between Friday and Sunday.

It is the highest number of ticket sales since modern records began in the mid-1980s, the film trade group said.

Three million of those fans went to see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

But other hits such as In Her Shoes, The Constant Gardener, Nanny McPhee and Wallace and Gromit also put in good performances.

UK & IRELAND BOX OFFICE TOP FIVE
Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine in In Her Shoes
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - three million tickets
2. In Her Shoes (above) - 175,000
3. The Constant Gardener - 150,000
4. Nanny McPhee - 127,500
5. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit - 100,000
Figures for Friday-Sunday. Source: Film Distributors' Association
"It was an unprecedented weekend," said the Film Distributors' Association's chief executive Mark Batey.

The UK has escaped the worldwide downturn because strong British stories are making up for lacklustre Hollywood fare, Mr Batey said.

Harry Potter was written by JK Rowling with a British director, Mike Newell, and The Constant Gardener sees Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz bring a John Le Carre novel to life.

Emma Thompson wrote and stars in Nanny McPhee, while Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the British animated duo's first feature film.

Of the UK and Ireland's top five films, only In Her Shoes, starring Cameron Diaz, has no prominent British link.

"It just happens that we've struck a rich vein of homegrown stories," Mr Batey said.

"It is a buoyant time. The obituary for British cinema has been prematurely written this year.

British films are proving more popular with UK cinema audiences than at any time in recent history
UK Film Council spokesperson
"That's not to say all is rosy - there's still room for further growth, there's no doubt about that. But we just happen to have hit a good crop of homegrown stories this year and long may it continue."

A spokesperson for the UK Film Council said British films were "more popular with UK cinema audiences than at any time in recent history".

"British films have accounted for 31% of ticket sales at UK cinemas so far this year compared to 23% over the same period last year - and that doesn't include the latest film in the Harry Potter series," she said.

Global downturn

US ticket sales dropped 10% in the first half of the year, while takings in Germany and France have slumped 20%.

Mr Batey said: "One reason I say France or Germany are down is they've also had the effect of the lacklustre general commercial product coming through.

"But they haven't had a similar boost from local French films or local German films."

Cinemas are expected to stay busy for the rest of the year, with The Chronicles of Narnia released in the UK on 8 December and King Kong out the following week.

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire has broken North American records for a Hollywood film shown on Imax screens, according to Screen Daily.

    Fans spent $2.9m (1.7m) to see the film on big screens over the weekend, the industry journal reported.


  • SEE ALSO:
    'Record UK haul' for Potter film
    21 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
    Potter faces Narnia fantasy challenge
    18 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
    Gromit film 'lifts UK box office'
    01 Nov 05 |  Entertainment
    Summer slump hits US box office
    05 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
    European cinema suffers downturn
    13 Jul 05 |  Entertainment


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