Dropping an OK 45% in its second frame, final Hobbit film Battle of the Five Armies stands at a healthy £20.35m after 10 days of play.
That’s just ahead of Desolation of Smaug, which had reached £20.04m at the same stage of its run. Smaug went on to experience an exceptionally strong third session (going up 2% from the second weekend), so the pressure is now on for Five Armies to manage a similar feat this coming weekend.
Five Armies is only the fourth film this year to crack £20m after two weekends’ play. The others are The Lego Movie, The Inbetweeners 2 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. As you can see from the top 25 chart below, which lists the biggest-grossing films of 2014, these previous titles occupy three of the top four places. By the time it has run its course at UK cinemas, it’s reasonable to expect Five Armies will be the top hit of the year, based on the performance of the previous Hobbit movies.
Dropping just 14%, Paddington has delivered another strong session at the UK box office, and now stands at £18.12m. With kids on holiday for Christmas, Paddington and other family films should continue to play robustly – and not just at weekends.
Paddington was able to resist the challenge of the PG-rated Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, which landed in third place with £1.85m. That number compares very disappointingly with predecessor Night at the Museum 2, which debuted in May 2009 with £4.16m, including £883,000 in previews. The original Night at the Museum kicked off in December 2006 with £7.69m, including £3.70m in previews. Both films ended up in a similar place – between £20m and £21m – and Fox now has its work cut out to get the third instalment to that level. Such an outcome looks distinctly unlikely.
Annie, which was originally set to arrive in cinemas on Boxing Day, in fact started playing on Saturday – presumably to diminish the impact of the online leak of the film. It is technically in previews, so its takings have not been included in official reports, and will all be added next time.
The late surge
Only one film in the top 10 saw a rise in takings from the previous frame, and that was Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?! Box office rose 16%, for a total to date of £6.37m. At the same stage, the weekend before Christmas, predecessor Danger in the Manger had reached £7.37m.
It’s not unusual to see Christmas-themed films rise in box office as the holiday approaches. However, Get Santa failed to match the Nativity performance, dropping 19%. Both titles are likely to see audiences dwindling rapidly after Boxing Day.
Admissions figures for November – measuring the number of tickets sold rather than box office value – are now in, and they show a dip on the same month in 2013. Overall for the first 11 months of the year, admissions are trailing 2013 levels by 6%. Cinemas would need to sell 25m tickets in December – roughly double what they sold in November – to make up the shortfall on 2013 and end the year level. That won’t happen.
The year hasn’t been plagued by huge money-losing flops – no John Carter, for example – but it has lacked the occasional giant hit that can really help the overall picture. In 2012, Skyfall grossed more than £100m, while the same year saw Marvel’s Avengers Assemble with £52m and The Dark Knight Rises with £56m. So far, no 2014 release has cracked even £35m (see chart below), although that picture should change when Five Armies completes its run.
If Five Armies falls short of £40m, that would make 2014 the first year with no £40m-plus hit since 1998. The Desolation of Smaug managed £42.92m, so Five Armies will need to pretty much match the pace of its predecessor to ensure this doesn’t happen.
Next year should be a different story, with Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre all very likely to be £50m-plus, and further big numbers expected from the likes of Jurassic World and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Despite the decent holds for Five Armies and Paddington, grosses were overall 14% down on the equivalent frame from 2013, when The Desolation of Smaug performed robustly, Frozen delivered another exceptional result and Anchorman 2 achieved a nice opening. Cinema owners are now pinning their hopes on the final frame of 2014, which will see the official opening of Annie, plus Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, Tim Burton’s Big Eyes and Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken. Whatever happens in the final weekend, 2014 will go down as a year that most distributors and exhibitors will want to forget.
1. The Lego Movie, £34.34m
2. The Inbetweeners 2, £33.39m
3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, £32.72m
4. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, £28.60m
5. Guardians of the Galaxy, £28.54m
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past, £27.13m
7. How to Train Your Dragon 2, £25.07m
8. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, £24.02m
9. The Wolf of Wall Street, £22.70m
10. Gone Girl, £22.29m
11. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, £20.35m*
12. Interstellar, £20.07m*
13. 12 Years a Slave, £20.03m
14. Transformers: Age of Extinction, £19.56m
15. Maleficent, £19.45m
16. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, £19.35m
17. 22 Jump Street, £18.61m
18. Paddington, £18.12m*
19. Godzilla, £17.24m
20. Bad Neighbours, £16.03m
21. Rio 2, £15.79m
22. Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, £14.72m
23. Lucy, £14.33m
24. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, £13.91m
25. American Hustle, £13.73m
Top 10 films 19-21 December
1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, £5,409,312 from 605 sites. Total: £20,348,768
2. Paddington, £2,513,675 from 588 sites. Total: £18,120,879
3. Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, £1,851,424 from 511 sites (new)
4. Dumb and Dumber To, £1,807,059 from 460 sites (new)
5. Penguins of Madagascar, £723,939 from 506 sites. Total: £4,186,632
6. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, £673,220 from 419 sites. Total: £28,601,375
7. PK, £649,812 from 132 sites (new)
8. Nativity 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!, £443,173 from 430 sites. Total: £6,365,839
9. The Imitation Game, £370,324 from 303 sites. Total: £13,311,646
10. Get Santa, £366,310 from 458 sites. Total: £1,774,551
The Nutcracker: Bolshoi Ballet, £293,192 from 195 sites (event)
Kon Tiki, £23,446 from 33 sites
Guys and Dolls, £5,570 from 3 sites (rerelease)
Rigoletto: Vienna State Opera, £5,406 from 6 sites (event)
Silenced, £84 from 1 site
• Thanks to Rentrak
This article was written by Charles Gant, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 24th December 2014 08.16 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010