UK Box Office Breakdown: Horton, Spiderwick Entertain Easter Audiences

While Meet the Spartans offends and The Orphanage sneaks into touch.

by | March 27, 2008 | Comments

Unbelievably, Fox almost didn’t release their animated Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who on the Easter weekend. Until a couple of weeks ago the film was going to be released the week before (and still was in a few cities), when most kiddies were still swapping ringtones in the schoolyard.

The studio will be glad they made the switch though, as armies of rugrats piled into theatres over the weekend to make the film UK box office number one, and pass it a cool £3 million in the process.

It’s generally accepted wisdom ’round these parts that Seuss doesn’t translate to a British audience, seeing as, unlike in the States, he is not required bedtime reading for our crumpet-scoffing nippers. But it seems that despite our relative unfamiliarity with the artist’s peculiar brand of gurn-tastic, inky nonsense, a combination of the film’s strong reviews (it’s at 79% on the Tomatometer) and bedraggled parents literally dragging their unkempt spawn to cinemas to stop them rampaging through their dining rooms conspired to give the film top spot.

A similar healthy formula worked for the second placed movie – and another newcomer in the charts – The Spiderwick Chronicles. Based on the books by Tony Di Teerlizzi and Holly Black, this CGI-happy children’s fantasy, starring the gnomic Freddie Highmore, was praised by critics for having several genuinely scary moments and not being too cutesy. High praise indeed and perfect fodder for today’s hoodied, Harry Potter-obsessed, iPod-thieving youngsters.

Arguably even more successful than either of these child friendly entries however was breakdancing sequel Step Up 2: The Streets, which came third in the charts but nabbed more dough per screen than any other film in the top five. It seems ‘The Kids’ were enthralled by the sweaty, pumped-up dance sequences, and didn’t care one jot about the ropey acting, lack of correlation with the original, and, as some reviewers noted, some rather unsavoury racial stereotypes. Empire‘s Anna Smith summed up the thoughts of jaded critics, saying the film “suffered from a real lack of charisma… still, the dance bits are good.”

Sadly a film without any redeeming features whatsoever also made a strong showing this week. Yes, of course we’re talking about Fox’s Meet the Spartans, which aimed not only to spoof Zack Snyder‘s 300, but also ingeniously skewer the pomposity of today’s celebrity culture. Naturally, seeing as this was written by two of the witless scribes behind Scary Movie and Date Movie, the best way to do this was to simply repeat scenes from/simultaneously pimp last year’s Fox movies and especially TV shows (American Idol, America’s Next Top Model) and hope their audience of braying morons would reward themselves with a self-congratulatory laugh for making the association in their tiny minds. Still, it made Fox over £1 million in the first four days, so fair play.

From the ridiculous to the sublime, and ending on a high note, the Guillermo del Toro-produced Spanish-language horror The Orphanage snuck into our top ten, despite only opening on a select 74 screens. Featuring superb performances, a haunting atmosphere and the obligatory terrifying deformed child, here’s hoping this film gets a wider distribution in the next few weeks.

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