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Beckham does to US what Gigli couldn’t

Los Angeles, Aug. 4: Britain’s £3-million film Bend It Like Beckham left Hollywood stunned last night as it was confirmed as a huge success across America while Gigli, starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck and reputedly costing £85 million, was damned as a flop.

Momentum has grown for the low-budget British film about the trials of a female footballer since critics said it was the “feelgood” movie of the year.

Now, 21 weeks after the film written and directed by Gurinder Chadha opened in the US, Fox Searchlight, the distributors, has decided to widen its exposure from 119 cinemas to 990.

Television stations were flooded with advertisements referring to its star, Keira Knightley, 18, shooting to fame in the Disney film Pirates of the Caribbean. Publicity was also given to the other actress, Parminder Nagra, who is known for her role in the TV hospital drama, E R.

According to box office figures for the weekend released in Los Angeles last night, Bend It Like Beckham shot from number 25 to seven, having increased its weekly gross by 716 per cent to £1.2 million.

(Among the top 10 is Sean Connery’s Victorian-era superheroes in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which also stars Naseeruddin Shah and grossed $3.1 million. The movie is based on the Alan Moore graphic novel epic of the same name and is the story of a group of characters drawn from famous works of literature, including Captain Nemo, Allan Quatermain, The Invisible Man, Mina Murray and Dr Jekyll, who band together to combat crime near the turn of the 19th century.)

Bend It Like Beckham has made £18.3 million in the US, compared with Miss Chadha’s last picture, the well-reviewed What’s Cooking', which grossed £645,000.

Gigli, for which Lopez was paid £8 million, and her fiance £8.25 million, grossed only a little more than the Beckham film, with a total of £2.4 million for its first weekend. Gigli officially cost about£35 million, but the New York Daily News said the budget was £85 million.

Reviews were so universally bad that Newsweek yesterday published a mock advertisement for the film, with a poster showing the two stars embracing amid a welter of reviews saying it was witless, coarse and vulgar. The magazine said the film had been “crushed to death”.

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