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Simon Pegg's 'Paul' has strong debut in Britain; Bieber doesn't

February 21, 2011 |  1:26 pm

MV5BMjI3NTg0ODEzOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjE1MTAzNA@@._V1._SX640_SY352_ The latest comedy from British "Shaun of the Dead" co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost is off to a strong start in their homeland.

"Paul," which was was written by the pair and centers on two comic book geeks who have a run-in with an alien, collected $5.5 million this weekend in Britain and Ireland. Combined with the $3.7 million it grossed from earlier previews, the movie is now at a strong $9.2 million.

That makes "Paul," produced by Working Title Films and distributed by its corporate parent Universal Pictures, the third-biggest British box-office opening this year behind "Tangled" and "The King's Speech." It took in just slightly less than the opening of 2007's "Hot Fuzz," which the two also acted in and Pegg co-wrote. "Hot Fuzz" went on to gross $41.2 million in Britain and Ireland.

"Paul" opens in the U.S. on March 18.

Justin Bieber's "Never Say Never," meanwhile, failed to excite teens in Britain like it has in the U.S. It opened to a soft $1.3 million in Britain and Ireland. It expands to France, Brazil and Argentina on Friday.

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Simon Paul encounters an alien in "Paul." Credit: Universal Pictures