Universal’s comedy-sci-fi Paul opened top at the UK box office over the January 18 -20 weekend, plundering $8.9m (£5.5m), including previews.

The opening is bankable British actor-writer Simon Pegg’s third best UK opening, behind JJ Abram’s 2009 Star Trek update ($9.6m/£5.9m) and Edgar Wright’s 2007 comedy Hot Fuzz ($9.6m/5.9m).

Greg Mottola’s latest, about two British comic-book geeks who encounter an alien outside Area 51, easily scored the week’s best screen average at $20,852 (£12,860).

Last week’s number one film, eOne’s 3D-animation Gnomeo and Juliet, dropped a place to second, taking $3.6m (£2.2m) for $10.4m (£6.4m) from 479 screens.

In its seventh week Momentum’s The King’s Speech continued to roll, grossing a further $2.8m (£1.7m) for a staggering $60m (£37m), the third biggest-haul for a UK production since records began, trailing only to The Full Monty ($84.3m/£52m) and Bridget Jones’s Diary ($68.1m/£42m).(The titles in the predominantly US-backed Harry Potter franchise are also above Tom Hooper’s drama.)

This week saw the Oscar hopeful’s week-on-week profits drop only 15%, the smallest week-on-week decline among the top 15 films, and enough of a boost to see it surpass 2003 smash Love Actually on the all time UK films chart.

Paramount’s Western True Grit scored $2.4m (£1.5m) in its second week, while Fox’s third instalment in the Big Momma franchise, Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son debuted on $2.3m (£1.4m), a slight drop on Big Momma’s House 2, which made $2.8m (£1.7m) in 2006, but still ahead of original Big Momma’s House, which took $1.3m (£800,000) in 2000.

In a second consecutive week of good depth, Warner’sYogi Bear and Disney’s Tangled rounded out the seven films to gross above $1.6m (£1m). The eighth, Just Go With It, missed out on $1.6m (£1m) by only $24,000 (£15,000).

There were three more top 20 new entries: Paramount’s doc-musical Justin Bieber: Never Say Never opened in ninth (and is likely to get a bounce next week end during half-term) on a surprisingly small $1.3m (£820,592) from 388 screens, Sony’s acclaimed financial crisis doc Inside Job placed 15th and UTV’s mystery-drama 7 Sins Forgiven (Khoon Maaf) debuted in 18th.

This week sees saturation releases for Lionsgate’s action Drive Angry 3D, Paramount’s romance-comedy No Strings Attached, Warner’s thriller The Rite, Icon’s comedy sequel West Is West and Disney’s sci-fi-action I am Number Four.