Having debuted with £5.31m plus £2.05m in previews, X-Men: Apocalypse looked on course for a solid second weekend, perhaps declining at a similar rate (53%) to the second frame of previous X-Men title Days of Future Past.
The big battle: X-Men v Alice
The challenger: Alice Through the Looking Glass. Predecessor Alice in Wonderland began in March 2010 with £10.56m, on its way to a lifetime total of £42.5m. Not many expected this sequel, which was not directed by Tim Burton, to perform at that level – but residual affection for the franchise should remain?
The result: X-Men: Apocalypse fell a par-for-the-course 52%, with second-weekend takings of £2.54m. After 12 days, the film has grossed £12.13m, which rises to just under £13m including bank holiday Monday. That was enough to resist the challenge of Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, which begins with a disappointing £2.23m, a mere 21% of Alice in Wonderland’s opening weekend gross. Including the bank holiday (when Alice beat X-Men), that number rises to a healthier £3.12m. This result will be a rather nasty jolt for Disney, after a glorious run, in which all of its divisions – including Pixar (Inside Out), Lucasfilm (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Marvel (Captain America: Civil War), Walt Disney Animation (Zootropolis) and Walt Disney Pictures (The Jungle Book) – delivered a series of hits that has made the studio the envy of Hollywood.
Of course, there is no such thing as a Midas touch, and a flop was going to show up sooner or later. The poor result for Alice Through the Looking Glass is a salutary lesson that just because audiences embraced one film doesn’t necessarily mean they desire to see another featuring the same characters. That can often be the case with comedies – Ted 2 fell well below Ted – and examples from other genres include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, where sequel Cradle of Life (£5.30m) fell far short of the original (£12.82m). An even more potent example is The Chronicles of Narnia, which saw second episode Prince Caspian (£11.79m) struggle to make much more than a quarter of the box office of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (£44.40m) here in the UK. Whether Johnny Depp’s current personal travails played into this result is anyone’s guess. More likely, Through the Looking Glass is a less-loved and less-read book, and therefore didn’t deliver equivalent brand value. Or perhaps the Mad Hatter is simply one of Depp’s more distinctive characters where a little goes a very long way, and once was enough for most audiences. With kids now at home for the half-term holiday, Alice should play reasonably strongly all week – and, indeed, Disney reports that the film topped the box office on Tuesday by a significant margin, enough to move it past X-Men: Apocalypse for the week so far.
The star vehicle: Money Monster
With £821,000 from 414 cinemas, Money Monster has landed in that middle ground between a bona fide hit and a costly flop. Bank holiday Monday pushes the tally to an OK £1.10m. Money Monster benefited from two A-list stars in the shape of George Clooney and Julia Roberts, but the financial TV show setting might be considered less than broadly mainstream. Roberts is coming off flop remake Secret in Their Eyes, and Clooney off the Coens’ amiable Hollywood satire Hail, Caesar!. Before that he was in The Monuments Men and Tomorrowland: A World Beyond – two films that didn’t quite live up to their creative potential, and which achieved UK openings respectively of £1.48m and £1.62m.
The indie hit: Love & Friendship
Buoyed by wildly positive reviews including five-star raves in the Guardian, Times and Telegraph, Love & Friendship delivered by far the biggest opening of US indie director Whit Stillman’s career. Released in 80 cinemas, the Jane Austen adaptation grossed £246,000 plus £17,000 in previews, with a strong bank holiday Monday lifting the total to £382,000. Takings on the Monday holiday not only crushed Friday, as you’d expect, but also beat Saturday and Sunday. Stillman’s last movie Damsels in Distress began its run with £45,000 from 19 cinemas, on its way to a lifetime total of £118,000. The director’s biggest hit remains The Last Days of Disco, which reached £619,000 in 1998. Love & Friendship is an adaptation of early Jane Austen epistolary novel Lady Susan. Period literary adaptations typically perform well midweek (to an older audience), and usually see a strong sustain in weeks two, three and sometimes beyond. All the planets look aligned for Stillman to achieve his first £1m UK hit.
The screen shedders
Several films saw their site averages hold up strongly, despite their box office dipping by significant amounts from the previous frame. The reason is that they all shed a huge chunk of their underperforming venues. Case in point is Florence Foster Jenkins, which contracted at the weekend from 434 to 145 cinemas. Box office fell 70%, but site average held up, with just a 9% drop. Our Kind of Traitor pulled in its footprint from 256 to 138 cinemas; Eye in the Sky from 185 to 89; and Everybody Wants Some!! from 121 to 44. All these films saw box office fall by at least 60%, but site averages remained firm.
Secret Cinema: postmortem
Secret Cinema Presents 28 Days Later ended its run on Sunday, after a seven-week occupancy. Total box office was £1.33m, an average of £190,000 per week. The film grossed £6.30m during its original run in 2002, so the Secret Cinema presentation has boosted the total by 21%. How much of the £1.33m flows back to distributor Fox and rights holders is hard to say. Secret Cinema incurs significant costs to deliver the interactive experience, and revenue splits for the premium ticket price almost certainly do not follow traditional film industry models. Secret Cinema’s Tell No One presentation of Dr Strangelove ended in March with £1.25m from weeks of play.
Largely thanks to the disappointing performance of Alice Through the Looking Glass, box office overall is down 36% on the previous frame and also down 29% on the equivalent weekend from 2015, when Dwayne Johnson actioner San Andreas opened at the top with £4.63m including previews. Cinema bookers now have their hopes pinned on a couple of titles that benefited from bank holiday Monday previews – Warcraft: The Beginning and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, both performing pretty robustly. But that’s not all: teary Jojo Moyes chick lit adaptation Me Before You could score well with women and accommodating partners; and The Nice Guys offers Shane Black directing Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as private detectives in sleazy 1970s Los Angeles. Alternatives include Jesse Owens biopic Race, Aussie gay drama Holding the Man, gritty French drama The Measure of a Man, Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins in Misconduct, Iggy Pop in Blood Orange and the self-explanatory documentary Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach.
Top 10 films, 27-29 May
1. X-Men: Apocalypse, £2,543,481 from 590 sites. Total: £12,132,935
2. Alice Through the Looking Glass, £2,229,399 from 603 sites (new)
3. Angry Birds, £919,519 from 558 sites. Total £5,771,901
4. Money Monster, £820,829 from 412 sites (new)
5. The Jungle Book, £779,205 from 558 sites. Total: £42,543,223
6. Captain America: Civil War, £668,009 from 449 sites. Total: £35,649,411
7. Bad Neighbours 2, £392,257 from 372 sites. Total: £5,853,050
8. Love & Friendship, £263,094 from 80 sites (new)
9. Secret Cinema: 28 Days Later, £163,159 from one site. Total: £1,327,437
10. Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants, £97,647 from 74 sites (new)
Top Cat Begins, £69,784 from 368 sites
The Daughter, £33,582 (including £15,796 previews) from 23 sites
Idju Namma Aalu, £13,587 from five sites
Saadey CM Saab, £11,957 from eight sites
Henry V, £10,441 from 59 sites (rerelease)
Kiki’s Delivery Service, £7,019 from 28 sites (rerelease)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, £6,394 from one site (rerelease)
Mon Roi, £3,992 from six sites
A Beautiful Planet, £3,000 from 14 sites
The Price of Desire, £2,887 from three sites
Valliyum Thetti Pulliyum Thetti, £1,990 from 31 sites
Gray Matters, £1,832 from two sites
Bobby, £1,061 from two sites
The Trust, £151 from seven sites
This article was written by Charles Gant, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 1st June 2016 12.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010