Harry Potter movie sets British box office record

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince set a British box office record on its opening night by taking more than £4.7 million in ticket sales.

The new Harry Potter film starring Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, set a record for a Wednesday opening night.

To take the title it beat the previous £3 million record set by the third instalment of the wizard's adventures, Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.

News of its success came as new figures showed that British films banked more than £2.6 billion worldwide last year.

In the US, the Half-Blood Prince also smashed the record for takings at midnight screenings, with £13.6 million, beating Batman movie The Dark Knight, which took £11.3 million last year.

Figures released by the UK Film Council showed that nearly one in six film viewings in cinemas around the world in 2008 was of a British film, while in the UK more than one in three tickets sold was for a home-grown movie.

The figures do not take into account the runaway success of multi-Oscar winning hit Slumdog Millionaire, which only went on general release around the world in January.

Danny Boyle's rags-to-riches tale has helped boost cinema takings this year, though.

Overall UK box office takings for 2009 so far are on course to beat last year's total of £850 million, with figures for the first half of the year up £90 million or 22 per cent on the same period in 2008.

Cinema admissions so far this year are also up on 2008, by 16 per cent.

Around the world, The Dark Knight – a joint US/UK production – was the most successful British film in 2008, taking around £600 million, while feel-good Abba musical Mamma Mia! took £69 million at the UK box office, making it the highest grossing film of all time in this country.

Film Minister Sion Simon said: "It should be clear to anyone from recent awards and box office successes that we are in the middle of a bumper time for British film, and today's remarkably buoyant set of statistics are clear evidence of that.

"We should all be proud of how well UK film is doing on the domestic and world stage at the moment, but the greatest credit should of course go to the production and acting talent that make this possible."

John Woodward, chief executive officer of the UK Film Council, said: "Billions at the box office and billions back to the UK economy – these are big numbers which underline the value of the UK film industry and the strength of our cultural talent.

"They also highlight just how important it is that we build on the many hard-won achievements and continue to invest in the long-term future of British film."

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