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‘Avatar’ Helps Lift 2009 U.K. Box Office to Record $1.4 Billion

Moviegoers walk past an advertisement for the film
Moviegoers walk past an advertisement for the film "Avatar" at a theater in Beijing, on Jan. 20, 2010. Photographer: Nelson Ching/Bloomberg

“Avatar,” James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster, helped push U.K. box office last year to a record 944 million pounds ($1.4 billion), the U.K. Film Council said.

Cameron’s movie overtook “Mamma Mia!” to become the highest-grossing film of all time in the U.K., with 92 million pounds as of July 20, the council said, releasing its yearly statistics at a London press briefing yesterday.

“Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” and “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” also helped make 2009 a record year, defying the global economic slump.

“Cinema admissions are recession-resistant,” said David Steele, head of the council’s research and statistics unit. “People were economizing on overseas holidays and consumer durables, and going to the movies.”

Steele said the appeal of last year’s releases also helped, as did public fascination with 3-D. “The audience is lapping it up: They’re prepared to pay more money for it,” he said.

Worldwide, movies with U.K. producers, directors, writers, and/or cast and crew -- which last year included the Harry Potter movie, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Sherlock Holmes” -- had a 7 percent share of the global market, grossing $2 billion.

That was less than half of the 2008 share of 15.1 percent, representing box office takings of $4.2 billion, achieved with movies such as “The Dark Knight,” “Quantum of Solace” and “Mamma Mia!”

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