Strong barometer for U.K. boxoffice

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The wettest U.K. summer on record fueled the season's hottest boxoffice here in generations.

Figures published Wednesday by trade body the Film Distributors' Assn. show that 50.8 million visits were made to U.K. cinemas from June through August, up 27% from the same period last year.

The FDA was quick to point out that the new number is 44% higher than in 2000, considered an exceptional year by industry observers.

The trade body said the fact that it was the wettest summer in Britain since records began in 1914 and the coldest August in more than 10 years "naturally drove people to seek indoor entertainment," producing in the biggest summer of cinemagoing in 40 years.

In all, 117 films received a U.K. release from June through August, with local film distributors investing about £75 million ($150 million) to launch and sustain their titles, according to the FDA figures.

It also was the summer of the sequel, with eight of the top 12 films seeing a return of familiar faces.

The top 12 movies, some of which are still in release here, grabbed £305 million ($610 million) at the U.K. boxoffice.

And the top five — "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," "The Simpsons Movie," "Shrek the Third" and "Spider-Man 3" — have each secured spots in the U.K.'s top 50 hits of all time.

"These are sensational figures, unprecedented in modern times," FDA CEO Mark Batey said.
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