It always looked to be one of the most anticipated films of the year, and so it has proved. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened in the UK with a mighty £12.19m, including Wednesday midnight and Thursday takings of £2.07m. That compares with £4.90m (including £431,000 in Thursday midnight previews) for the original Hunger Games. Comparing like-for-like Friday to Sunday figures, Catching Fire is 126% up on The Hunger Games, rising from £4.47m to £10.12m.
Including previews, the biggest openings of 2013 are Despicable Me 2 with £14.82m and Iron Man 3 (£13.71m); Catching Fire takes third place. Going strictly by Friday to Sunday takings, the biggest openings of the year are Iron Man 3 (£11.39m) and Man of Steel (£11.20m); Catching Fire again takes third place.
The original Hunger Games went on to achieve a huge multiple of its opening number, maxing out at £23.8m. The massive anticipation for the sequel means that the box office will almost certainly prove more front-loaded, and it would be a big surprise to see the final Catching Fire number achieve a similar multiple of just over five times its three-day opening figure.
It is worth remembering that the original Twilight film was relatively modest in the UK, with a lifetime of £11.2m, surging to £27.5m for second instalment New Moon. In the intervening year, many more film fans caught up with the Twilight novels and saw the original film on DVD, building anticipation for the sequel. With The Hunger Games, the first film started from a much higher base, meaning any sequel would have less far to rise, but a 50% increase would take Catching Fire to about £36m.
Beginning this week, and for the future, event cinema – things shown on the big screen other than films, such as plays, opera, ballet, museum exhibitions, sports events, music concerts – are included in the official UK box-office chart by data gatherer Rentrak. The first event to benefit is the live satellite beaming of the BBC's Day of the Doctor, which achieved a whopping £1.80m from 440 cinemas, landing at number three in the chart. When you consider that the overwhelming majority of that sum was grossed from a single live showing, with a few repeats – encores, in industry parlance – the next day, the site average of £4,088 is particularly impressive. For example, Gravity, which is above it in the chart, achieved an average of £4,360, but that would be from a typical 12 showings, four a day, across the three-day weekend.
Also landing in the top 10 is Andre Rieu: Home for Christmas 2013, with £290,000. According to distributor CinemaLive, grosses for the 2012 equivalent concert from the Dutch violinist and conductor were £250,000, albeit not officially reported by Rentrak at the time. In July, Rieu's summer concert grossed £449,000 in the UK from a single weekend of play, according to data announced at the time by CinemaLive.
With Catching Fire arriving at multiple screens across more than 550 cinemas, and films losing vital Saturday showtimes to Doctor Who, existing titles in the market took a predictable tumble. Philomena, for example, which had hitherto performed especially steadily, dropped 46%. It is worth considering, however, that on weekdays Philomena will expand into some daytime showtimes that played the likes of Catching Fire at the weekend. Over the past seven days, Philomena added £1.57m, which is £200,000 more than Thor: The Dark World managed over the same period, despite the Marvel sequel being two places above it in the weekend chart.
Heroic gravity-defier of the week is The Butler, which drooped a relatively slim 23%. The Counsellor, which beat The Butler when they went head to head the previous weekend, fell 70%, and is now £500,000 behind in terms of cumulative box office. The starry Ridley Scott film will now struggle to hold screens and showtimes, whereas the Lee Daniels picture looks set for a solid run.
The arthouse battle
Although many independent cinemas grabbed hold of some Catching Fire cash, and continue to play upmarket mainstream films such as Gravity, The Butler, Philomena and Captain Phillips, a true alternative arrived in the shape of Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The Cannes Palme d'Or winner opened with £142,000 from 52 cinemas, the biggest debut for a non-Bollywood foreign language film since Pedro Almodóvar's I'm So Excited arrived in May with £311,000 including £58,000 in previews. No non-Bollywood foreign language film this year has passed the £1m mark, with the Danish/English Love Is All You Need leading the pack with £885,000, ahead of The Great Beauty (£859,000), I'm So Excited (£848,000) and François Ozon's In the House (£827,000).
The last Palme d'Or winner, Michael Haneke's Amour, took £887,000 in the UK, which presents a lofty target for Blue. Whatever number it ends up on, it should be way, way ahead of director Abdellatif Kechiche's only previous UK release, Couscous, which maxed out here with £275,000. Top site at the weekend for Blue is London's Curzon Soho with more than £16,000.
Lambasted by some strongly negative reviews, Luc Besson's The Family landed with a poor £445,000 from 324 cinemas. Despite a cast headed by Robert De Niro, the mafia comedy had uncertain appeal. The film has achieved a not-so-dismal 42/100 rating at Metacritic, but all the top reviews are from the US (notably Chicago, Boston and Miami), whereas all the UK reviews surveyed by the site offer a score of 40 or lower.
Following an eight-week run where box-office trailed behind 2012 levels, the market has finally bounced back, with the weekend 35% up on the equivalent frame from a year ago, when the final Twilight film and Skyfall held steady in the top two places and Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger was the top new release. Thanks to a particularly poor October, where admissions were nearly 5 million fewer than for October 2012, cinemas have a lot of catching up to do. November 2012 was another very strong month (last year's best, in fact), so the market is going to struggle to match it , even with 10 days of strong play for Catching Fire included in the November 2013 figures.
In the absence of a massive Hollywood blockbuster opening, it's hard to envision a box-office bonanza occurring this weekend. Instead, Saving Mr Banks should play to broad upmarket and slightly older audiences, while the Carrie remake, comedy The Best Man Holiday, animation Free Birds and François Ozon's Jeune et Jolie should all connect with the anticipated market segments.
Top 10 films
1. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, £12,189,733 from 554 sites (New)
2. Gravity, £2,389,193 from 548 sites. Total: £19,444,886
3. Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor, £1,798,629 from 440 sites (New)
4. Thor: The Dark World, £722,811 from 434 sites. Total: £18,456,032
5. The Butler, £613,877 from 304 sites. Total: £2,032,072
6. Philomena, £541,068 from 530 sites. Total: £8,866,771
7. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, £474,178 from 505 sites. Total: £11,547,869
8. The Family, £444,659 from 324 sites (New)
9. Andre Rieu: Home for Christmas 2013, £290,173 from 222 sites (New)
10. Turbo, £254,821 from 428 sites. Total: £11,217,779
Blue Is the Warmest Colour, £142,077 from 52 sites
Parkland, £114,321 from 198 sites
Gori Tere Pyaar Mein, £94,479 from 49 sites
Singh Saab the Great, £43,859 from 24 sites
Irandaam Ulagam, £19,024 from 15 sites
Computer Chess, £15,907 from 14 sites
Gone With the Wind, £14,245 from 5 sites (rerelease)
The Summit, £8,451 from 15 sites
Vendetta, £5,052 from 4 sites
Su Ve Ates, £5,024 from 3 sites
Thira, £3,681 from 10 sites
Flu, £3,657 from 10 sites
¡Vivan Las Antipodas!, £896 from 2 sites
Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson, £185 from 4 sites
Thanks to Rentrak
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010