The winner: The BFG
After The BFG opened in the US with a disappointing $18.8m (£14.3m), there was no shortage of media opinion along the lines of Variety’s “The BFG flops: has Steven Spielberg lost his blockbuster touch?” (In that particular article, Brent Lang deemed the director a failure and said he was “no longer attuned to the zeitgeist”.) In the UK, local distributor eOne – which had made what must have been a costly acquisition – would have been forgiven for any concern. On the other hand, Roald Dahl is especially beloved in the UK, and The BFG features British characters in a British setting – a fact that the film has honoured with a British cast led by Mark Rylance. The UK box office has consistently punched above its weight with family films adapted from British-authored material, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (£37.8m) and Alice in Wonderland (£42.5m) to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (£44.4m) and, of course, Paddington (£38m).
The outcome? The BFG opened in the UK with a sturdy £5.29m, nabbing the top spot ahead of fellow new release Star Trek Beyond. That’s slightly ahead of the debut figure for Paddington (£5.13m) in November 2014. Weekend weather was warm and mostly sunny, especially on Saturday – not helpful to the cinema industry; the more cloudy Sunday was the film’s strongest day of the weekend. The BFG went out into 680 cinemas, compared with 535 for Star Trek Beyond; Spielberg’s fantasy clearly fit in well at independent venues and multiplexes. Industry rule of thumb dictates that a UK equivalent of the US opening would be around £1.9m (10% of the US box office, with the dollar symbol changed to the pound symbol), whereas the The BFG came in way ahead of that number. This general rule, of course, is not as applicable to films with strong British elements.
The runner-up: Star Trek Beyond
Paramount and JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek brand in 2009, delivering a film that opened in the UK with £5.95m (including £872,000 in previews), on its way to a £21.4m total. Four years later, Star Trek Into Darkness kicked off with an impressive £8.43m (including £1.57m previews), finally arriving at £25.8m. Now comes Star Trek Beyond, which has begun with £4.74m – a 31% drop on the Into Darkness debut number, if previews are discounted. Star Trek Beyond may have suffered from director JJ Abrams’ exit into rival franchise Star Wars (he remains as producer). Or fans might have been more excited by Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain last time around, with Beyond baddie Idris Elba less proven at the box office. And Paramount may have struggled to persuade broader audiences to see a third Star Trek film. A final gross below £20m looks likely.
The one-off concert
Year after year, Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu breaks cinema box-office records with his annual summer concert, filmed in his hometown of Maastricht. Takings are up again this year, boosted by strong encore screenings on Sunday afternoon. This cinema audience has a strong skew to the over-75 demographic, making the 7pm transmission on Saturday evening a challenge for some audience members. Box office was a mighty £1.41m, up from £1.11m in 2015 and £831,000 in 2014. The broadcast penetrated even more cinemas this year, with 534 carrying the concert in the UK and Ireland, up from 460 last year and 395 in 2014. Also flying the flag for event cinema was Secret Cinema’s presentation of Dirty Dancing. Takings of £954,000 were slightly up on the previous weekend. The run of just six dates delivered a final box office of £1.90m. That’s more than the combined runs of the original 1987 release (£1.62m) and the 20th-anniversary rerelease in 2007 (£224,000).
The flop: Ice Age
Plummeting from second to eighth place in the official comScore chart, Ice Age: Collision Course was one of the big losers from the arrival of The BFG. Gross after 14 days nationwide (and longer in Scotland and Ireland) is £5.03m, which compares with £17.7m for Ice Age: Continental Drift at the same stage. This means that Collision Course is running at just 28% of the pace of its predecessor. Schools have now broken up for the summer holiday, so families may eventually get round to seeing Collision Course, even if it’s not their first choice. Finding Dory arrives on Friday, however, and that will be priority for the vast majority.
Admissions figures are in for June, and they reveal a 19% fall on the June 2015. This is perhaps to be expected in a month that featured the European Championship, and admissions are almost level with June 2014, which of course featured the World Cup. Major releases in June were The Secret Life of Pets, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Conjuring 2, Warcraft: The Beginning and Me Before You. These compare with Jurassic World, Minions and Spy in 2015. After six months, admissions overall this year are 5% down on 2015, but are 5% up on the first half of 2014. Cinemagoing was historically low in 2014 (it was the worst year for admissions since 2000), bouncing back impressively in 2015 (pretty much level with the best years we have witnessed in the last four decades). Cinema owners are taking comfort from the fact that summer this year appears to be back-loaded, with Finding Dory, Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad all to come.
Overall, takings are 7% up on the previous frame and are dead level with the equivalent weekend from 2015, when Inside Out debuted at the top spot. The industry is now anticipating the coming session with justified optimism, since Jason Bourne, in cinemas on Wednesday, is followed on Friday by Pixar’s Finding Dory. With Matt Damon returning as Bourne, reteaming with director Paul Greengrass, anticipation for the film is huge. Finding Dory, meanwhile, has grossed $460m in US cinemas so far. Alternatives this weekend include Thomas Vinterberg’s The Commune, documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story, Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker in Born to Be Blue (in cinemas since Monday), Stanley Kubrick rerelease Barry Lyndon, Chinese fantasy film League of Gods and Bollywood action adventure Dishoom. World Cup ’66 Live plays Saturday night only.
Top 10 Films, 22-24 July
1. The BFG, £5,288,529 from 680 sites (new)
2. Star Trek Beyond, £4,740,040 from 535 sites (new)
3. André Rieu in Maastricht concert, £1,414,075 from 534 sites
4. Ghostbusters, £1,320,048 from 564 sites. Total: £7,194,619
5. The Secret Life of Pets, £1,212,213 from 573 sites. Total: £28,000,720
6. Secret Cinema: Dirty Dancing, £953,520 from one site. Total: £1,899,607
7. The Legend of Tarzan, £634,031 from 446 sites. Total: £8,102,613
8. Ice Age: Collision Course, £577,755 from 561 sites. Total: £5,029,418
9. Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, £452,147 from 429 sites. Total: £14,599,287
10. Now You See Me 2, £322,105 from 318 sites. Total: £5,710,321
Kabali, £295,357 (including £110,031 previews) from 72 sites
Chevalier, £18,167 from 28 sites
Madaari, £15,656 from 16 sites
Imagine You and Me, £13,558 from one site
So Young 2: Never Gone, £1,788 from seven sites
Around China With a Movie Camera, £827 from one site
K-Shop, £605 from one site
Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air, £219 from two sites
• Thanks to comScore. All figures relate to takings in UK and Ireland cinemas.
This article was written by Charles Gant, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 26th July 2016 13.19 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010