Mr Turner makes a big impression at the UK box office

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A huge draw at arthouse and multiplex alike, Mike Leigh’s acclaimed biopic, starring Timothy Spall as the great 19th-century painter, exceeds expectations

A scene from Mr Turner
Picture this … Mr Turner will soon overtake Vera Drake as Mike Leigh’s most successful film
Picture this … Mr Turner will soon overtake Vera Drake as Mike Leigh’s most successful film

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 15.35 EST

The winner

After the five-star critical adulation that greeted Mike Leigh’s new film in Cannes, prospects for Mr Turner always looked strong. On the other hand, Topsy-Turvy – the director’s other celebration of 19th-century artistic achievement – sits only in a modestly respectable fifth place in the Leigh box-office table, behind Vera Drake, Secrets and Lies, Another Year and Happy-Go-Lucky. The biggest UK opening for a Leigh film came from Happy-Go-Lucky, with £385,000 from 77 cinemas.

It’s fair to say that Mr Turner opened above and beyond industry expectations, with £905,000 from 129 cinemas, including £24,400 in previews. That delivered a site average of £7,015, by far the biggest of any film in the market. Top site was the Curzon Chelsea, with an impressive £19,900, and top cinema from a multiplex chain Odeon Richmond. Outside the capital, top site was Cambridge Picturehouse, and top regional multiplex Guildford Odeon.

Distributor eOne reported that the film did exceptionally well in London, as you’d expect for a reviews-driven title, but also in the south-east in general, with big numbers at plexes in Guildford, Tunbridge Wells and Chichester.

Cannes 2014: Mr Turner’s Timothy Spall: ‘I like to paint angels in anguish’

At 150 minutes, the epic length of the film posed a challenge to programmers trying to offer customers a choice of two evening showtimes, and there was evidence of straddling across two screens, alternating with a shorter film. After the Friday numbers came in, some cinemas promoted Mr Turner to screens with bigger seating capacity.

The film is playing an even balance of arthouses and multiplexes, with the former scoring particularly well on Friday. Growth on Saturday came more in the plexes, perhaps as a result of bigger screen allocations or tinkering with showtimes. Across the weekend, Picturehouse claimed top share, with 18% of Mr Turner’s box-office.

Due to its limited screen count, Mr Turner had to content itself with seventh place in the weekend chart. However, partly thanks to family films and horror pictures fading on Monday, Mr Turner found itself surging to become the top-grossing title on that day, auguring well for continued success. The film expands to about 250 cinemas from its second weekend, by far the widest play for a Leigh title. The director’s biggest ever hit, Vera Drake, enjoyed an exceptionally sustained run, eventually reaching £2.38m. It’s now a question of when, not if, Mr Turner exceeds that figure.

The solid six

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For the first time since January, six films managed £1m in weekend takings at the UK box office, spreading the wealth evenly. The frame coincided with the end of half-term, fuelling strong results for family fare Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (returning to the top spot thanks to a modest 26% drop), The Book of Life (up 8%) and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (down 9%), although the latter title is not one of the six £1m weekend movies. Halloween on Friday propelled Ouija to a nifty £1.37m opening, and sustained the likes of Annabelle and The Babadook (down just 15%) lower down the chart. Universal will be happy to see Ouija deliver the second-biggest horror opening of the year, behind Annabelle (£1.94m).

The current chart is one of the tightest of recent weeks, if not the whole year. The top film grossed just 3.12 times the 10th-placed title. In October, there were charts in which the top title variously grossed 17, 16.5 and 10.5 times the film in 10th place. In summer blockbuster season, the disparity can be even more pronounced: The Inbetweeners 2 opened at the top with a gross 72 times the 10th-placed film that weekend.

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Sixth-placed Nightcrawler crept past the £1m weekend tally thanks to £59,000 in previews. The well-reviewed title ranked third place on Monday, behind Mr Turner and Fury. With a reported production budget of only $8.5m, this was potentially an attractively priced acquisition for UK distributor eOne, especially if word-of-mouth sustains.

Gone Girl picked up another £1.06m at the weekend, and £2.27m over the seven days. Its £19.33m cume puts it within sniffing distance of Seven (£19.52m) in the all-time 18-certificate chart. Once it has overtake Seven, it will start bearing in on the top three 18-cert titles: The Wolf of Wall Street (£22.70m), Hannibal (£21.58m) and American Beauty (£21.39m). Of course, both Wolf and Gone Girl benefit from significantly higher ticket prices than those earlier films.

The disappointments

The film team review Horns

Hoping to catch some Halloween updraft, Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe, landed rather weakly in 11th place, with £396,000 from 379 cinemas, including £95,000 in previews. Going just by weekend numbers, that’s roughly comparable with Radcliffe’s last film, romcom What If, which began with £336,000 plus £257,000 in previews. Radcliffe enjoyed a huge hit with The Woman in Black, but has subsequently proved less commercially surefooted. Risk-averse studios will be pondering the degree to which Radcliffe ticks the “guys want to be him, women want to be with him” boxes, usually accepted as prerequisites for A-list stardom among male film actors.

Shia LaBeouf in Charlie Countryman proved a virtual wipeout, with £12,100 from 103 sites, and a £118 average. The film premiered at the Sundance film festival in January 2013, going on to limited US release last November. It was always going to be a challenge to generate excitement for this film in cinemas.

The future

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Despite those six films picking up at least £1m at the weekend, the absence of any really big hit saw box-office come in at 39% below the equivalent weekend in 2013, when Thor: The Dark World exploded at the top of the chart with £8.67m. In truth, the market was to some degree simply drawing breath, since Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar arrives on Friday – surely set to restore grosses to year-ago levels. Alternatives to the space-travel sci-fi include Keira Knightley in Say When; Pierce Brosnan in November Man; Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins; and Elijah Wood in Set Fire to the Stars. Which of those four can successfully carve out a counter-programming niche will be interesting to watch.

Top 10 films 31 October - 2 November

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, £1,429,159 from 514 sites. Total: £11,771,775

2. Ouija, £1,373,907 from 416 sites (new)

3. Fury, £1,246,990 from 503 sites. Total: £5,609,870

4. Gone Girl, £1,061,282 from 472 sites. Total: £19,330,235

5. The Book of Life, £1,056,274 from 540 sites. Total: £4,022,383

6. Nightcrawler, £1,003,822 from 413 sites (new)

7. Mr Turner, £904,947 from 129 sites (new)

8. The Maze Runner, £664,766 from 402 sites. Total: £7,752,518

9. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, £524,109 from 459 sites. Total: £2,468,716

10. Annabelle, £457,026 from 387 sites. Total: £7,126,266

Other openers

The film team review Citizenfour

Horns, £396,042 from 379 sites (including £95,016 previews)

Carmen – Met Opera (event cinema), £326,430 from 172 sites

Citizenfour, £53,925 from 19 sites (including £34,452 previews)

Alien, £38,460 from 73 sites

Halloween, £33,342 from 73 sites

Aliens, £27,134 from 49 sites

Yoddha the Warrior, £13,001 from 7 sites

Charlie Countryman, £12,180 from 103 sites

The Guarantee, £11,498 from 12 sites (including £5,381 previews)

Super Nani, £8,560 from 12 sites

Incir Receli 2, £6,651 from 4 sites

One Million Dubliners, £6,402 from 9 sites

Roar, £5,927 from 11 sites

Extraterrestrial, £5,049 from 28 sites (including £2,110 previews)

The Woman in Black, £4,743 from 74 sites

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, £4,151 from 4 sites

The Overnighters, £2,899 from 2 sites (including £1,998 previews)

Thanks to Rentrak

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