FIRST NIGHT: No gimmicks needed for comic hit: Four Weddings And A Funeral: Odeon, Leicester Square

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The Independent Online
NOW the really revolutionary way to organise a first night for this film would have been to celebrate the second half of its title and have everyone come dressed as undertakers. But that may have detracted a little from the feelgood factor.

Instead, all the first night guests at the charity premiere in aid of Comic Relief and the Elton John Aids Foundation were asked to come in wedding gear. The invitation was endearingly and chattily British. 'Can you imagine,' it says on the ticket, 'how wonderful it will be - 1,000 brides and 1,000 grooms in one cinema.'

Last night, an array of British talent including Andrew Lloyd- Webber, Helena Bonham-Carter, Harry Enfield, Twiggy, Bananarama and Lenny Henry decked out in morning suit, top hat and cane found confetti throwers, church choir and an organ in Leicester Square, London.

But gimmicks aside, this film is on course to be the most successful British-made film ever. And it contains neither Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson nor Sir Anthony Hopkins.

It is currently number one at the US box office, where it has taken dollars 20m ( pounds 13m), already recouping its investment four times over. And the marketing of the wedding theme was the initial way it caught the public imagination in the US.

Some cinema managers there offered free tickets to couples arriving in tuxedos and wedding dresses, but its success owed more to word-of-mouth recommendations which are just as likely to make it a box office number one in England.

But no gimmicks were actually necessary for this film and it received a huge ovation from the first-night audience. Scripted by Blackadder writer Richard Curtis, it was a tribute to what British talent can achieve on a low budget.

The comedy, directed by Mike Newell, centres round a group of thirtysomethings and the pressures of marriage on them. Hollywood's Andie MacDowell, the only star of the film not present last night, rescues Britain's Hugh Grant from his anxieties and repression.

It is a joyously funny and heartwarming film, which is clearly the first answer to the recent, publicly uttered prayers of the British film industry to make more commercial films.

(Photograph omitted)