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'Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': From Pleasant Surprise to Box Office Phenomenon UPDATED

Thompson on Hollywood By David Gritten | Thompson on Hollywood May 2, 2012 at 1:34PM

The year’s first British movie hit in the UK has shifted from being a pleasant surprise to a box office phenomenon. The question is whether its adult appeal will translate when Fox Searchlight opens the film stateside on May 4.
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"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"
Fox Searchlight "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"

The year’s first British movie hit in the UK has shifted from being a pleasant surprise to a phenomenon. The question is whether its adult appeal will translate when Fox Searchlight opens the film stateside on May 4.

The movie in question has a grandiose title: "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." It’s a bitter-sweet comedy-drama targeted at over-50 audiences. It doesn’t seem the most promising material for a big box-office hit, yet the film has confounded expectations. On its opening weekend – and older audiences in Britain tend to stay away from theatres at weekends, when they’re packed with teenagers and younger filmgoers – it grossed a hugely impressive £2.2 million ($3.5 million). On the Monday after its Friday opening, it became the number one film in Britain. The gross topped £9 million ($14.2 million) after just 14 days.

Since then, it has gone from strength to strength. UPDATE: It's at $69 million worldwide --and it hasn't hit North America yet.

It’s about a group of British seniors who for various reasons decide to emigrate to Jaipur, India, where the hotel of the title is located; it caters for “the Elderly & Beautiful.” For them, it seems a shrewd, cheaper way to eke out their meager pensions.

The cast is packed with popular veteran British actors in their 60s or 70s. Dame Judi Dench is a recently widowed woman, impatient to make decisions for herself and experience a new country. Another Dame, Maggie Smith, plays a bigoted Londoner who only sets out for India to get a cut-price hip replacement.

This article is related to: Box Office, Box Office, Judi Dench, Fox Searchlight, Fox Searchlight


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.