After landing at a disappointing third place in the US chart the previous weekend, it was down to the overseas territories to pick up the slack for Sony's After Earth, which teams global superstar Will Smith with son Jaden.
Could foreign make up for the weak results at domestic? Well, no complaints from Sony at its UK chart position (it's at the top) but the box-office number, £2.25m, is nothing to get excited about. By rule of thumb it's actually behind the pace of its US debut of $27.5m – you'd expect a UK figure of around £2.7m. The result trails behind the debuts not just of 2013 franchise pictures such as Fast & Furious 6 (£8.72m) and Star Trek Into Darkness (£8.43m including previews), but also of similarly themed non-sequels. Tom Cruise sci-fi Oblivion started its run with £3.36m plus £1.60m in previews for a five-day opening of £4.96m. Looper, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, kicked off with £2.43m last September.
After Earth is the first film starring Will Smith since Men in Black 3 debuted with a disappointing £2.94m last May. The sci-fi comedy went on to recover, eventually passing £22m. Smith's star power was enough to open downbeat drama Seven Pounds to £1.57m in January 2009, and in July 2008 his Hancock exploded with £9.59m including £2.96m in previews. Son Jaden's previous effort The Karate Kid also debuted more strongly than After Earth: it began in July 2010 with £4.88m including previews of £2.29m.
The arthouse hit
Since The Great Gatsby landed in mid-May, the arthouse market has seen a trickle of relatively tiny pictures – distributors evidently felt it was better to wait for a more propitious time when dating niche titles with crossover appeal. Now Baz Luhrmann's literary adaptation finally gets some serious upscale competition in the shape of Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's swansong about showman pianist Liberace's love affair with the much-younger Scott Thorson. Predicting the commercial outcome was a tough call: strong marketable elements included Soderbergh and stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. But the popularity of Liberace was debatable, and Behind the Candelabra presented an image of gay sexuality presumably less broadly appealing than the manly hunks of Brokeback Mountain.
Distributor eOne released the film on a relatively tight 131 screens, achieving a gross of £513,000 and an average of £3,918. The distributor reports a strong hold on Monday, achieving the highest screen average of any film in the market on that day. Behind the Candelabra expands to 243 cinemas from Friday.
Concert-based music documentaries can be a tough sell at the cinema, relying as they do on the act's most devoted fans. The challenge for distributors is to create an event around the film, as Picturehouse has done with Shane Meadows' The Stone Roses: Made of Stone. Weekend takings of £68,000 from 82 cinemas are distinctly lacklustre, but with Wednesday/Thursday previews added in, and especially the £250,000 from a live premiere hosted on 30 May at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester and beamed into 204 cinemas, the tally rises to a much more impressive £367,000. Over the weekend, competition for Stone Roses fans' attention came from the band playing live concerts on Friday and Saturday at London's Finsbury Park.
Meadows' last film, 2009's Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee, received only a moderate release with mostly one-off showings. Before that. 2008's Somers Town debuted with £121,000 from 62 cinemas. The highly acclaimed This is England began its run in April 2007 with a surprisingly restrained £208,000 from 62 screens, including £21,000 in previews. Thanks to the success of the premiere event, Made of Stone represents the biggest ever opening for a Meadows film.
Among recent music documentaries blending concert footage with behind-the-scenes footage, Katy Perry: Part of Me debuted last July with £449,000 including £91,000 in previews, but that was from a wide rollout on 326 screens. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never did better, kicking off with £821,000 from 388 cinemas in February 2011.
A pair of pictures, both opening on 200-plus screens, performed disappointingly. Hitman true tale The Iceman, starring Michael Shannon and Winona Ryder, failed to seal the deal with either arthouse or genre fans, beginning its run with £202,000 from 220 cinemas. The Last Exorcism: Part II did even worse, debuting with £116,000 from 214 venues, yielding a feeble £541 average. Both pictures await better fates on home entertainment platforms.
Predictably, several of the previous weekend's weaker performers fell hard. Nuptials-themed comedy The Big Wedding dropped 76%. Neil Jordan's vampire flick Byzantium plunged an alarming 86%, having lost nearly half its cinemas. Viewed through that prism, Populaire's fall of 63% is not so disastrous.
With no proper blockbuster entering the market at the weekend, box office fell 32% from the previous frame, and was also 30% down on the 2012 equivalent, when Prometheus, Men in Black 3 and Snow White and the Huntsman continued to dominate. UK cinema owners are now eagerly anticipating the arrival on Friday of Man of Steel, the Superman film that Warner Brothers hope will be embraced as a blockbuster event from producer Christopher Nolan. Bryan Singer's Superman Returns fizzled out with a disappointing £16.4m. Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises stands at £56.3m.
Counterprogramming initiatives this weekend include period true tale Summer in February, with Dominic Cooper and Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens; Joss Whedon's low-budget Much Ado about Nothing; Paul Rudd/Tina Fey comedy Admission; and US indie Stuck in Love.
Top 10 films
1. After Earth, £2,249,532 from 470 sites (New)
2. The Hangover Part III, £1,145,249 from 491 sites. Total: £16,162,073
3. Fast & Furious 6, £846,541 from 469 sites. Total: £23,265,775
4. Epic, £665 from 525 sites. Total: £11,210,545
5. The Great Gatsby, £658,225 from 505 sites. Total: £13,592,156
6. Star Trek Into Darkness, £616,662 from 417 sites. Total: £24,350,387
7. The Purge, £541,859 from 364 sites. Total: £2,236,252
8. Behind the Candelabra, £513,288 from 131 sites (New)
9. The Stone Roses: Made of Stone, £367,319 from 82 sites (New)
10. The Iceman, £201,789 from 220 sites (New)
The Last Exorcism: Part II, 214 sites, £115,811
Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, 60 sites, £106,271
Thérèse Desqueyroux, 12 sites, £21,706
Aguirre, Wrath of God, 7 sites, £11,585 (rerelease)
Voice of My Father, 1 site, £947
Come as You Are, 7 sites, £607
009 Re: Cyborg, 3 sites, £607
The Stroller Strategy, 1 site, £84
• Thanks to Rentrak
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