'Casino,' 'Pirates' join U.K. boxoffice club

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LONDON -- Boxoffice revenues and admissions dropped overall here during 2006, while two movies -- "Casino Royale" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" -- joined the rather exclusive £50 million ($99 million) -plus club.

The latest James Bond and Jack Sparrow installments each garnered more than $100 million at the U.K. boxoffice, joining a club with just eight other members to date, according to research released Monday by the U.K. Film Council.

"Casino" and "Pirates" join "Titanic," the "Lord Of The Rings" trilogy, "The Full Monty," "Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" and the first two installments in the "Harry Potter" franchise on the list of films to have broken the £50 million barrier.

The assembled stats, drawn from the Film Council's research and statistics bulletin published Monday also shows the top 20 British movie fayre grossed £151 million ($302 million) at the boxoffice in 2006 with "Casino Royale," "The Da Vinci Code," "Flushed Away," "The Queen," "Stormbreaker," "Children of Men," "The History Boys" and "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" leading the charge from these shores.

The bulletin also reveals that a total of £762 million ($1.5 billion) was squeezed from the U.K. box office in 2006, 1% down on 2005.

Admissions for last year fell 5% to 157 million by the end of 2006. The Council says the drop was "partly due to World Cup fever and record temperatures."

The Council also turned its eye to the small screen and noted there has been "a gradual decline in the number of films shown" on British televisions.

Movies on BBC1, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4 over the last 10 years are down from 2,807 in 1997 to 2,011 films in 2006.

One in five films broadcast on television last year was deemed British. But the proportion of recent U.K. films less than eight years old shown on the main networks has increased over the last five years from 2.8% in 2002 to 5.2% last year. Recent British films shown on BBC1 have more than doubled in five years from 3.8% in 2002 to 8.2% in 2006.

U.K. Film Council CEO John Woodward said: "Last year's most successful British films at the U.K. boxoffice demonstrate the sheer range and style of film we can make, from high concept visual effects productions to films which reflect British culture and history."
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