After four weeks where the market has been dominated by Wreck-It Ralph, Disney scored again with its latest family title, Oz the Great and Powerful.
Oz's £3.71m is a decent opening figure, and Disney will be hoping to sustain the title throughout March and then coast through the two weeks of Easter school holiday.
In the US, Oz opened with a muscular $79m, indicating a UK debut of about £8m could have been expected. The big UK shortfall on the rule-of-thumb projection may be explained by the huge popularity of L Frank Baum and all things Oz in North America, which is not matched in the UK. The respective opening figures for Alice in Wonderland, from Oz producer Joe Roth, were much better aligned, with $116m in the US and £10.56m in the UK.
The biggest UK debut for a film featuring James Franco in a lead role remains Rise of the Planet of the Apes, with £5.84m including £1.10m in previews. For director Sam Raimi, the best opening remains Spider-Man 3, with £11.83m – a tally that did not include previews.
Benefiting from some stonking reviews, including a five-star rave from the Guardian's own Peter Bradshaw, Side Effects kicked off with a solid £905,000. However, the number for Steven Soderbergh's feature-film swansong compares unfavourably with Magic Mike, which began last July with £2.65m including just over £1m in previews. An uncertain genre positioning – medical drama, Hitchcockian thriller, self-consciously trashy B-movie – may have hampered audiences getting a fix on the film, and many critics were at a loss how best to communicate its pleasures without giving away the twisty fun.
It's the first time a film has landed as high as second place in the chart with less than £1m since September (when Killing Me Softly opened in that position with £956,000) and the lowest gross for a chart runner up since July (when Ice Age: Continental Drift occupied the spot with £720,000 earnings from Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland).
In a studio's portfolio of risk, a Jason Statham action film represents a relatively predictable outcome: unlikely to deliver a breakout surprise, but reliably flop-proof. However, the numbers seem to be drifting downwards. Despite glossy Miami production values, Taylor Hackford direction and the addition of Jennifer Lopez, Statham's latest – Parker – debuted with a lacklustre £569,000 from 301 sites and a £1,890 average. This compares with £680,000 from 330 cinemas for the opening salvo of Safe last May. The Mechanic kicked off its run with £922,000 from 301 venues in January 2011. Hollywood financiers will be paying more attention to DVD numbers, as it is on ancillary platforms that the Statham brand comes into its own.
The Mother's Day experiment
Unlike Valentine's Day, Mother's Day is not traditionally considered a big cinema-going occasion, but this didn't prevent Paramount targeting the day with its intergenerational comedy The Guilt Trip, boasting unlikely combo Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. The US tagline – "Get ready for one mother of a road trip" – was tweaked to become the more straightforwardly descriptive "The first-ever mother-son road trip movie". An additional marketing message urged: "Flowers? Not again … Chocolates? Really?! Treat her with a trip to the cinema this Mother's Day!"
The resulting box-office, £398,000 from 318 sites, enough for seventh place in the chart, hardly suggests a crowning achievement. On the other hand, The Guilt Trip had already underwhelmed in the US, with a $37m total, and Streisand is a more marketable commodity there. It's hard to know what else could have been done to re-energise this title, which has a 50/100 Metacritic score and a 5.6/10 IMDb user rating. Cinemas saw earnings spike on the comedy from Saturday to Sunday, whereas all the other titles in the top 10 experienced significant dips, especially A Good Day to Die Hard and, ironically, Mama.
Landing with a thud in 33rd place, Fire with Fire, released more or less straight to DVD in the US last summer, debuted here with a dire £19,200 from 105 cinemas, yielding a £183 average. Despite featuring in the Transformers movies, Josh Duhamel never looked an easy sell as the main star of an action film, and audiences may have surmised that Bruce Willis's role is modest. The supporting cast includes Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio, 50 Cent and Vinnie Jones. The film's director, David Barrett, is a veteran stunt man and stunt co-ordinator.
With Soderbergh's Side Effects appealing to arthouse fans as well as multiplex goers, and Oscar movies, such as Les Misérables, Argo, Django Unchained, Life of Pi and Lincoln all still in the top 20, conditions are far from ideal for smaller releases aimed at specialised audiences. Robot & Frank was the highest-grossing film released on fewer than 100 prints, but £99,000 from 73 sites, plus £8,000 in previews, will hardly get cinema bookers salivating. Broken, from British theatre director Rufus Norris, achieved a similar result, with £53,000 from 35 sites, plus £13,000 previews. Highest-grossing foreign language title is Lore in 30th place.
Although overall weekend takings were only 40th out of 52 in the league table for the past year, box-office was almost identical (up a quarter of a per cent) to the equivalent frame from 2012, when Disney's John Carter opened disappointingly at the top spot. The picture is unlikely to show imminent improvement, as the coming weekend lacks an obvious blockbuster release. Instead, several mid-level titles will battle for audiences: James McAvoy returns in cop thriller Welcome to the Punch; Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey and Nicole Kidman star in steamy crime thriller The Paperboy; Steve Carell and Jim Carrey are warring magicians in comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone; the long-delayed Red Dawn remake sees teens fight back against an invasion of the US; and Elijah Wood puts Frodo behind him in gory slasher picture Maniac.
Top 10 films
1. Oz the Great and Powerful, £3,712,948 from 530 sites (New)
2. Side Effects, £904,746 from 351 sites (New)
3. Wreck-It Ralph, £744,683 from 503 sites. Total: £21,459,657
4. Parker, £568,777 from 301 sites (New)
5. Mama, £525,672 from 373 sites. Total: £4,530,295
6. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, £507,759 from 403 sites. Total: £2,651,393
7. The Guilt Trip, £432,068 from 316 sites (New)
8. Safe Haven, £407,293 from 388 sites. Total: £1,689,566
9. A Good Day to Die Hard, £342,415 from 321 sites. Total: £10,401,957
10. Les Misérables, £293,893 from 278 sites. Total: £39,552,600
Robot & Frank, 73 sites, £98,656 (+ £7,690 previews)
Broken, 35 sites, £53,127 (+ £12,690 previews)
Fire with Fire, 105 sites, £19,201
The Princess Bride, 76 sites, £11,273
Być Jak Kazimierz Deyna, 5 sites, £5,578
Babeldom, 4 sites, £1,558
Gangs of Wasseypur: Part 2, 4 sites, £340
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