"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.