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There was all kinds of weird news at the box office this weekend, with Cowboys & Aliens and The Smurfs tying for first place by appealing to completely separate audiences, and the last Harry Potter film crossing the $1 billion mark overseas, making that movie franchise the equivalent of some large world economy. But there was one story that was just simply great: Attack the Block, the British import distributed on 8 screens by Screen Gems, made $130,000, which comes out to an impressive $16,250 per screen-- nearly twice the per-screen take of that other alien movie out in theaters this weekend.

If you follow me or other movie writers on Twitter you've probably been hearing about Attack the Block for months now, as Screen Gems has done aggressive fan outreach early screenings since the movie debuted at SXSW in March. Or you might have just read Matt Patches' glowing review from that very festival, where he promised it "may wind up as one of the best action movies of the year." At the end of a long summer of expensive, short-on-imagination blockbusters, it's clear Attack the Block is better than nearly all of them, a sharp and relentlessly entertaining genre movie that also gives us characters worth caring about. The fact that it's executive produced by Edgar Wright is not a mistake-- it shares Shaun of the Dead's and Scott Pilgrim's ability to meld action and character development effortlessly, and also go for humor and thrills in seemingly one fell swoop. The plot is pretty simple: what would happen if the alien invasion started at a rundown housing project in South London, and a group of street thugs were the only ones who could fight back? But it's where the movie goes both with its action story and this group of punks we come to love that makes Attack the Block so thrilling and special.

I'll be writing a formal review of Attack the Block at some point this week, but this is just a short note to say, if at all possible, you should see this movie. Yes I know it's in limited release and difficult to find in a lot of places, but if you're in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin or Chicago, you have no excuse. Hopefully Screen Gems will be expanding the movie in the coming weeks based on this strong start, and if nothing else, Attack the Block is destined to be a DVD hit as more and more audiences discover what will at least be the best alien invasion movie of 2011. Believe.

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