Togas-to-go and abs to die for atop the UK box office, while Grand Budapest Hotel books in a surprise third
Seven years after the original 300 film, and with Gerard Butler's slain character missing this time around, it was by no means certain that audiences had an appetite for second helpings. But backers Warners and Legendary Pictures will be plenty happy with the opening numbers for 300: Rise of an Empire in the US and internationally. In the UK, the film, from director Noam Murro (Smart People) and starring Australian actor Sullivan Stapleton (Animal Kingdom), achieved a robust £2.76m debut. While that's well down on 300's opening salvo – £4.75m including previews of £784,000 – it's not bad for a film that seemed short of marketable elements other than the 300 brand name.
Rise of an Empire knocked The Lego Movie off the top spot after a three-week run. The Warners animation has now grossed £28.8m after 19 days of play, putting it just behind Shrek on £29m. Next in its sights in the all-time box-office league for animation: A Bug's Life (£29.45m) and Chicken Run (£29.51m).
The art-house crossover
The sunny weather across much of the UK at the weekend must have given a few worries to the distribution and exhibition industries and none more so than at Fox: its Grand Budapest Hotel, with an upscale and older audience skew, might have been expected to perform robustly at Sunday matinees, which is when the sunshine was at its most glorious. However, it's hard to point to the weather having impacted box-office, since the film debuted with a very impressive £1.53m, including previews of £96,000.
The number is the biggest ever for a Wes Anderson film, beating even hit animation Fantastic Mr Fox, which debuted in 2009 with £1.52m, albeit without the benefit of previews. In live action, Anderson's box-office has been much more modest, with both The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic opening in the £430-460,000 range. His last film, Moonrise Kingdom, began with a soft £252,000 in May 2012, although the film faced sunny skies on its opening weekend, and recovered to achieve a decent £2m by the end of its run.
With Wes Anderson, you would always expect a strong performance on weekdays and in daytime, and a relatively gradual erosion of audience overall, so signs are propitious for a big final number. It all depends on whether audience word on the 1930s-set comedy matches the ecstatic reviews. Currently, the IMDb user rating of 8.4/10 is in line with a MetaCritic score of 86/100. So far, box office from the Secret Cinema run in London's Farringdon has not been added. The event is playing six shows per week for a five-week run, with a ticket price of £53.50, and could gross in the region of £500,000. How much of the ticket price flows back to Fox is anyone's guess, but obviously a large chunk is needed to cover the costs of the Secret Cinema experience.
The Oscars effect
With the awards season finally drawing to a close at the Oscars ceremony on 2 March, last week predictably saw an uptick for the films that won significant prizes. Best picture champ 12 Years a Slave, still in the Top 10 in its ninth week of play, saw weekend receipts rise 4% on the previous frame, and added a nifty £766,000 over the seven days, bringing its total to £19.18m. Going by the US result ($53m to date), you'd expect a UK total more in the region of £5m, and UK distributor eOne is rightly proud if its achievement here.
Having scooped the awards for best actor (Matthew McConaughey) and best supporting actor (Jared Leto), Dallas Buyers Club likewise saw an uptick from the previous session, rising an identical 4%. The film added £603,000 over the seven days, and now stands at £4.51m. Again, this is well ahead of the pace set by the US, where it has grossed £26m – a UK total of £2.6m would be typically indicated.
Arguably the biggest winner of all at the Oscars, with seven wins including best director, Gravity fell 24%. Alfonso Cuarón's film has now reached £32.17m, slightly ahead of the target indicated by the $272m US tally.
Without the benefit of converting any of its five nominations into Oscar wins, The Wolf of Wall Street fell 49%, more in line with other films in the marketplace, dropping out of the Top 10 into 14th place. The cumulative total now stands at a hefty £22.27m, just ahead of Men in Black 2 and The Hangover in the all-time box-office chart.
The local comedy
Playing so far only in Ireland and Northern Ireland, comedy The Stag managed an OK £94,000 from 54 cinemas. Just over a year ago, The Hardy Bucks Movie opened in Ireland with £153,000 from 57 cinemas, the seventh biggest ever debut for an Irish comedy. Although The Stag is behind the pace, its appeal to audiences in England, Wales and Scotland looks broader. With a cast led by Andrew Scott (Moriarty on TV's Sherlock) and Peter Macdonald, the film expands across the UK from Friday.
The gay hit
Although the weekend number (£11,900) wasn't anything to write home about, overall Stranger by the Lake added an impressive £30,000 across the seven days, taking its tally to £118,000. That compares with £139,000 at the same stage of its run for Weekend – the biggest ever hit from specialist distributor Peccadillo. Since Friday, Stranger by the Lake has been available to rent across various digital platforms and to own via iTunes, which may have taken the shine off the weekend box-office result.
For the fourth week in a row, box office is up on the equivalent session from 2013 – on this occasion, it's up by 26%. Exactly a year ago, Oz the Great and Powerful landed at the top spot, ahead of Steven Soderbergh's Side Effects. January's total admissions of 15.19m tickets sold were down on January 2013's very strong 17.08m, but it looks likely that both February and March will see an uptick on the performance of a year ago. In 2013, March posted the second-lowest month for admissions, lagged that year only by September. Cinema bookers are probably not too excited about the commercial potential of this week's fresh offerings, with only Need For Speed, adapted from the hit video game series, likely to deliver big numbers. Also in the mix: Terry Gilliam's Zero Theorem, Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin and the UK expansion of The Stag.
Top 10 films
1. 300: Rise of an Empire, £2,761,612 from 487 sites (New)
2. The Lego Movie, £1,633,265 from 547 sites. Total: £28,801,707
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel, £1,532,239 from 284 sites (New)
4. Non-Stop, £1,496,108 from 453 sites. Total: £5,364,237
5. Ride Along, £823,312 from 385 sites. Total: £2,832,887
6. The Book Thief, £569,776 from 518 sites. Total: £2,693,536
7. Escape from Planet Earth, £395,392 from 385 sites (New)
8. Mr Peabody & Sherman, £385,338 from 477 sites. Total: £12,091,150
9. 12 Years a Slave, £368,857 from 389 sites. Total: £19,177,585
10. Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, £318,157 from 457 sites. Total: £5,072,228
The Stag, £94,474 from 58 sites (Ireland only)
Total Siyapaa, £50,123 from 21 sites
Gulaab Gang, £38,871 from 33 sites
Monster High: Frights, Camera, Action!, £36,422 from 83 sites
Queen, £32,385 from 19 sites
Rome, Open City, £11,435 from five sites
Wake in Fright, £8,148 from eight sites
Bullet, £137 from three sites
Thanks to Rentrak
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