Takings were down significantly in April, but the UKbox office is still riding high going into blockbuster season.
Atthe end of May, year-on-year figures remained up 5% with a year to date totalbox office of $578m (£318.2m), according to Nielsen EDI figures.
This is noticably down on the 13% gain the territoryboasted at the close of the first quarter but comes ahead of a potentiallybumper June that has already delivered a predicted $4m opening for the 18-ratedSin City and sees Fox's Mr And Mrs Smith and Warner Bros' BatmanBegins delivered over the next two consecutive weeks.
Of course last June saw Harry Potter And ThePrisoner Of Azkaban dominate UK box office and no title this year is likelyto match Potter's level (it grossed $74m [£40.7m] in June 2004).However, Potter saw little open to compete against it in subsequentweeks last year so contributions from a more tightly-packed slate this yearcould still hope to equal overall numbers.
Afterthe bumper first quarter April proved a bad patch, finishing 21% downyear-on-year against the same month in 2004 with a total gross for the month of$114.4m (£63m).
The likes of The Ring Two (£2mopening), Be Cool (£1.15m) and Sahara (£1.4m) during the firsttwo weeks of the month were no match for last year's Scooby Doo 2 (£3.5mopening), Dr Seuss' The Cat In The Hat (£1.7m), 50 First Dates(£1.65m) and Shaun Of The Dead (£1.6m) in equivalent weeks. The thirdweek saw The Interpreter's £1.6m opening weekend unable to match thethird week holdover of £1.8m from 2004's Scooby-Doo 2 while holdoversand new launches alike where no challenge to 2004's fourth week debutante KillBill Vol. 2 (£2.8m).
Onlythe last week of the month (starting on April 29 and crossing into May) broughta reprieve with the release of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxywhich had passed $18m (£10m) by the end of May.
Maygot off to a difficult start. The May 6-12 week was down 20% year-on-year with KingdomOf Heaven's £2.5m opening weekend no match for Van Helsing £4.9m inthe equivalent week of 2004. However, the next week and Kingdom's holdovercombined with a strong counter-programming launch for Entertainment FilmDistributor's comedy Monster-In-Law (£1.3m), the continued strength of Hitchhiker'sand a phenomenal first day Thurday (May 19) for Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge Of The Sith to boost takings 19% year-on-year triumph. The StarWars juggernaut rolled through its opening week to deliver an 82%year-on-year rise for the May 20-26 week while the final week of the month heldsolid, slipping just one percent lacking any launches on the level of 2004's TheDay After Tomorrow.
Overall,however, the injection of Hitchhiker's and Star Wars helped Mayto a 17% year-on-year gain with a total gross of $115.7m (£63.7m).
Itwill be touch and go whether the combination of Batman Begins, Sin Cityand Mr And Mrs Smith can make up for the lack of Potter in Junebefore War Of The Worlds opens at the end of the month in the slotinhabited last year by Shrek 2.
Ayear's end box office record may currently not look as assured as it did twomonth's ago but it is important to remember that any further deficit left bythe summer loss of Potter and Shrek 2 could be made up by astronger autumn which, among others, will deliver UIP's Wallace And Gromit:The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit and this year's Potter - Harry Potter And TheGoblet Of Fire.