Predictions for the box-office gross of Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie were all over the map. Pessimists pointed out that both Keith Lemon: The Film and The Harry Hill Movie had failed to convert their significant TV followings into equivalent legions of cinema customers. And with the average age of the Mrs Brown TV viewer believed to be around 50, the audience didn't suggest itself as one apt to leave its sofa in droves for the multiplex. On the other hand, with Lemon and Harry Hill, the film-making teams had faced the challenge of converting characters most famous for a panel game show (Celebrity Juice) and a playful take on the week's TV (TV Burp) into scripted features. Mrs Brown's Boys is already a scripted sitcom, and creatively more suited to a big-screen close-up. Could D'Movie's success land closer to The Inbetweeners Movie than to Lemon and Harry Hill?
The achieved result, a £4.30m opening weekend in UK and Ireland, represents the top end of industry expectations. It's understandably well down on The Inbetweeners Movie's debut of £13.22m including previews of £4.57m back in August 2011. But it's a big improvement on the opening salvos of both Lemon (£1.20m) and Harry Hill (£550,000). It's also well up on the first frame of last summer's Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (£2.18m including previews of £744,000).
Ireland is always included in reports of UK box office, and on this occasion will have over-indexed relative to its population size. Mrs Brown's Boys has already sold over 5m DVDs in the UK, and D'Movie, positioned to hit retailers at the end of October (assuming a standard four-month theatrical window), will surely be a huge gifting item this Christmas.
The film was barely professionally reviewed in the UK, achieved by the simple expedient of not offering any press screenings. The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin was one of the hardy few to report from the multiplex frontline, describing its plot as "a maudlin and sentimental grind", and observing of one ethnically stereotyped scene: "This isn't funny. It isn't even unfunny. It's something close to anti-funny." The Guardian's Mike McCahill dubbed the film a "thin stew" and a "flatly indifferent cash-in".
Released in 134 cinemas in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2 opened solidly with £604,000 including previews of £79,000. (The film also played previews in England and Wales, but those will only be reported after it opens there officially on July 11.) Comparisons are tricky, but Pixar's Brave followed a similar regional pattern in August 2013, debuting with £820,000 from 143 locations.
The original How to Train Your Dragon debuted nationwide in April 2010, grossing £4.85m including £2.12m in previews. The film went on to a UK total of £17.37m, then becoming a notable success on DVD. With all due respect to The Nut Job, Earth to Echo and Planes: Fire & Rescue, Dragon doesn't face competition from a real big-hitter animation all summer, so DreamWorks Animation and distribution partner Fox will be hoping for a strong sustained run.
Two wide releases landed in the middle of the chart. Jon Favreau's star-packed, food-themed indie flick managed £463,000 from 372 cinemas, plus £143,000 in previews. Mamma Mia! wannabe Walking on Sunshine came in a bit lower, with £403,000 from 360 venues. Both were positioned as counter-programming to the World Cup, aiming for a slight female skew with Chef (although a father-son storyline is the emotional hook) and a bigger one for Walking on Sunshine.
Four years ago, similar attempts at counter-programming (to the 2010 World Cup) saw Letters to Juliet land with £587,000 plus previews of £206,000; and Killers, starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl, kick off with £744,000 plus £309,000 in previews.
Walking on Sunshine comes from the directors and producers of the StreetDance films, but has failed to emulate their success. As for Mamma Mia!, that film was based on a long-running stage show that over many years had created a hungry audience for a film version, and was also populated with a heavyweight cast. Watching Meryl Streep and Colin Firth sing Abba songs was an intriguing prospect; seeing the lesser-known cast of Walking on Sunshine take on 80s classics clearly represented a must-see prospect for a much smaller audience.
Mamma Mia! opened in the UK with £5.21m plus £1.38m in previews, on its way to a towering £68.55m.
In the UK, golf is a huge participation sport that supports a thriving media industry including Golf World, Today's Golfer, Golf Monthly, Golf News and Golf International. Would this dedicated niche convert to a cinema audience for a biopic celebrating the life of golfing legend Severiano Ballesteros? The answer is not, in the case of Seve, which debuts with a weak £47,300 from 159 cinemas, yielding an anaemic £297 average. A cinema release in the winter might have proved more engaging, since June's late bright evenings are more apt to witness golf fans actually playing the sport. UK distributor Entertainment Films is more likely to have given priority to the DVD release: arriving in the heart of Q4, Seve could prove another rich gifting item this Christmas.
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Thanks to Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie, box office overall is a decent 29% up on the previous frame, which in turn was 19% up on the prior weekend. For that reason, you'd imagine cinemas are thriving, but multiplex owners may take a different view. The weekend session is a troubling 51% down on the equivalent from 2013, when Despicable Me 2 landed in the top spot. Since the start of March, weekend box office has been down on the year-ago equivalent frame on 13 occasions, and up only four times. The summer blockbuster season has suffered a significant interruption from the World Cup, and exhibitors will be pinning their hopes on the major films arriving in July and August.
The coming weekend, however, seems to offer scant relief, with Melissa McCarthy comedy Tammy leading what otherwise looks to be a relatively niche field of fresh contenders, including Noel Clarke sci-fi actioner The Anomaly and Scandi dark comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Through a Window and Disappeared. All are likely to be outperformed by yet more previews of How to Train Your Dragon 2 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Top 10 films June 27-29
1. Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie, £4,301,306 from 522 sites (New)
2. The Fault in Our Stars, £1,699,690 from 519 sites. Total: £6,697,519
3. 22 Jump Street, £1,203,390 from 431 sites. Total: £15,096,724
4. Maleficent, £819,504 from 488 sites. Total: £16,564,412
5. Chef, £605,976 from 372 sites (New)
6. How to Train Your Dragon 2, £604,325 from 134 sites (New)
7. Walking on Sunshine, £403,490 from 360 sites (New)
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past, £319,270 from 310 sites. Total: £26,482,836
9. Edge of Tomorrow, £315,900 from 254 sites. Total: £7,243,085
10. Jersey Boys, £195,718 from 436 sites. Total: £1,034,415
Cold in July, £156,783 from 104 sites
Ek Villain, £144,286 from 30 sites
Punjab 1984, £103,195 from 29 sites
A Haunted House 2, £48,676 from 14 sites
Seve, £47,294 from 159 sites
Mistaken for Strangers, £40,051 (including £34,432 previews) from 9 sites
Secret Sharer, £14,093 from 9 sites
The Golden Dream, £11,187 from 9 sites
Keeping Rosy, £4,416 from 4 sites
Under the Rainbow, £4,100 from 8 sites
Return to Homs, £1,344 from 4 sites
Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure: Otway the Movie, no figures available
Thanks to Rentrak
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