Blockbusters no Christmas gift in U.K.


LONDON -- Boxoffice blockbusters failed to unseat local soaps, entertainment shows and comedy programs this year as the most popular Christmas Day viewing in the U.K.

Movies proved unable to crack the top 10 most-watched programs over the holiday, as the ubiquity of film channels and DVDs seems to have resulted in smaller audiences for the once highly anticipated theatrical hits.

BBC1's big Christmas Day movie, "Monsters Inc.," was watched by an audience of 5.1 million, while ITV1's airing of "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" (known in the U.S. as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone") scored just 4.8 million.

They finished far behind the most-watched U.K. Christmas Day program, the first half of two-part comedy drama "The Vicar of Dibley," starring Dawn French, which scored 11.4 million viewers.

The show, which saw chocoholic vicar Geraldine Granger appear to finally have found romance, aired at 9:30 p.m. on BBC1.

Britain's long-running soaps "Eastenders" (BBC1) and "Coronation Street" (ITV1) took second and third place, with 10.7 million viewers and 9.6 million viewers, respectively, for their 9 p.m. showings. The first part of the "Eastenders" double bill, which aired at 6:30 p.m., drew an audience of 9.2 million.

The "Doctor Who" Christmas special won 8.7 million viewers while "Little Britain Abroad" scored 8.4 million.

Some 7.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the Queen deliver her annual Christmas message, narrowly beating the 7.3 million who tuned in to watch a festive special of Britain's version of "Dancing With the Stars," known here as "Strictly Come Dancing."

A preview of the show, which aired earlier in the evening, drew 6.5 million viewers.