Last weekend heralded the arrival on UK shores of an Indian film expected by critics to be the Bollywood film that would achieve the crossover to a wider audience that has so far eluded previous films in this market.
The release of Asoka, by Miracle Communications, at 76 sites nationwide was a bold move, which on the surface appears to have paid off. The film scored a massive opening weekend of $341,743 (£235,461), including previews of $55,411, to record the second-biggest opening of all-time for a Bollywood film in the UK, after last year's Mohabbatein ($357,573). This result also bettered the opening of 1998's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ($262,685) which went on to become the highest grossing Indian film ever in the UK.
However Mohabbatein and Kuch Kuch opened at just 26 sites and 20 sites respectively, a more common release pattern for Indian fare, resulting in tremendous site averages. Asoka's healthy average of $4,497 pales by comparison both to these and those shown by other Indian films this year; Ek Rishtaa - The Bond Of Love averaged $9,792 and Lajja $10,492 both from 16 venues; Lagaan, the most successful Bollywood film of the year so far, averaged $33,120 from 4 sites on its opening weekend. While Asoka's release can certainly be seen as a huge success it has not necessarily proved crossover appeal as it could be argued that the figures suggest the film has largely just spread the same audience over a wider area.
Another film recently talked up as being a crossover film was Momentum Pictures' French-blockbuster Amelie, which continues to live up to its reputation. This weekend the romantic comedy took another $401,078 (£276,343) from 103 sites to bring its total gross to $3.8m (£2.6m). This makes it the highest grossing French title of all-time in the UK, breaking the 10-year record held by 1991 release Cyrano De Bergerac of $3.6m (£2.5m). Expanding by another eight sites to 111 this weekend Amelie's next target to beat, Life Is Beautiful's second place in the chart of biggest foreign-language films in the UK ($4.4m), looks well within sight.
The biggest opening of the weekend was recorded by 20th Century Fox's Legally Blonde which claimed second position in the chart with a resounding $2.1m (£1.5m) from 324 sites, including $335,887 of previews from 226 sites. However the comedy, which stars Reese Witherspoon, was unable to dethrone UIP's American Pie 2 from pole position. The gross-out sequel held the top spot for its third week running with $2.4m (£1.6m) from 417 sites.
Also holding position from last week were third and fourth placed Jeepers Creepers ($1.7m) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire ($1.6m). Atlantis, which saw a rise of 18% on the three-day figure of its previous weekend, was just one of several children's films to benefit last weekend from the end of school half-term with Dr Dolittle 2 gaining 6%, Shrek 8% and Cats & Dogs 34%.
The only other opener to make the chart was Entertainment's The Man Who Wasn't There. The latest from the Joel (director/writer) and Ethan (producer/writer) Coen brothers, managed $609,113 (£419,679) from 140 sites. The film, which stars Billy Bob Thornton, boasted a strong site average of $4,351 and took seventh position in the chart