Choppy waters for Serena as Fury storms UK box office

Brad Pitt’s second world war tank drama obliterates the competition, including Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper reunion and This Is Where I Leave You

‘Relatively straightforward’ … Brad Pitt’s Fury debuted at No 1 in the UK box office this week. Photograph: Giles Keyte
‘Relatively straightforward’ … Brad Pitt’s Fury debuted at No 1 in the UK box office this week. Photograph: Giles Keyte

Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 15.22 EST

The winner

Brad Pitt confirmed his enduring box-office power with a No 1 opening for Fury, grossing just under £2m over the three-day weekend period, plus £698,000 in previews. A relatively straightforward second world war film about a five-man US tank crew, Fury didn’t necessarily offer an irresistible must-see hook, nor is it based on a particular real-life event that might have helped win it extra attention. But on-balance positive reviews (a 64/100 score at Metacritic) plus publicity generated by Pitt’s red-carpet appearance at the London film festival will have helped.

Although different in tone, a comparison might be made with The Monuments Men, directed by and starring Pitt’s friend George Clooney. The starry art-rescue flick debuted earlier this year with £1.62m, on its way to £6.3m. With £2.69m already, Fury looks on course to exceed that total. Pitt’s biggest UK opening weekend to date was delivered last year by World War Z, with £4.54m. The zombie-virus film is Pitt’s biggest hit globally, with £334m at cinemas.

The losers

Given the long delay between filming (late spring 2012) and release, expectations were suitably modest for Serena, a Depression-era drama starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Even so, a UK debut in lowly 19th place, with a dismal £95,000 from 185 screens, still qualifies as disappointing. Silver Linings Playbook, which likewise paired Cooper and Lawrence in lead roles, debuted in November 2012 with £1.25m, including £292,000 in previews. Just over a year later, the first weekend of wide play saw American Hustle (significant supporting parts for the actors) deliver £3.47m, including £1.11m in previews.

One lesson to be learned – or reinforced – from Serena is that it’s hard to market a period film without support from critics, especially if it’s not based on a familiar literary property or historical character. It’s fair to assume that Ron Rash’s novel is not so widely read in the UK, while the premise – the travails of two married North Carolina timber merchants in the 1930s – whispers minority appeal. Despite the presence of two marketable names in the lead roles, Serena suggested itself as a film that was always going to be highly execution-dependent, meaning director Susanne Bier had to deliver a fully achieved film to have any chance at all. It’s a risk that seems not to have paid off, at least for the film’s backers and distribution partners.

Landing three places above Serena, but with a screen average that’s actually a tad lower, This is Where I Leave You is a similar disappointment. The family dramedy is not short of recognizable names in the cast – notably Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Rose Byrne – but lacked a major box-office star. The film grossed £109,000 from 222 cinemas.

The chick flick

Counter-programmed as an alternative to Fury’s wartime action, Love, Rosie, adapted from Cecelia Ahern’s Where Rainbows End, landed rather softly in ninth place, with £373,000 plus £110,000 in previews. That’s way, way down on the debut of PS I Love You, likewise adapted from an Ahern novel. That one began in January 2008 with £1.79m, on its way to a very handy £10.65m. The half-term holiday may see an uptick this week for Love, Rosie, although the 15 certificate would put it out of bounds to younger teens. The film currently enjoys a 7.5/10 IMDb user rating, suggesting that the audience has so far been largely satisfied. Rentrak’s UK box-office reports include takings in Ireland, where you’d expect Love, Rosie to be doing well – Ahern is a local author, and the book (if less certainly the geographically ambiguous film) is set largely in Dublin.

The family battle

With the October half-term holiday starting last Friday, it’s no surprise to see a number of family films scrapping in the top 10. Among new entries, animation The Book of Life did best, grossing a decent £981,000. Fox, which distributes internationally for DreamWorks Animation and has its own Blue Sky Studios (Ice Age etc), didn’t have the benefit of a recognisable animation brand for this title, instead trading on the cachet of producer Guillermo Del Toro.

Disney expanded its live-action family flick Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day to all parts of the UK, with middling results (see chart). Neither of these titles proved much of a match for Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, convincingly the top attraction for families in its second week of play, and now with a 12-day cume of £7.89m. The Maze Runner, tucked behind The Book of Life in fifth place, is chugging along nicely, and has now reached £5.86m.

The Bollywood hits

The Diwali festival is traditionally a good time to release a Hindi film, and Happy New Year, starring Shah Rukh Khan, delivered one of the best openings for a Bollywood film so far this year. With £568,000 from 100 cinemas, including £50,000 in previews, the action-comedy delivered an impressive screen average of £5,682. Within this market, Happy New Year has been eclipsed in 2014 only by Bang Bang, although that film’s £602,000 debut included a bigger proportion of previews, totaling just under £100,000.

Tamil title Kaththi, starring Vijay Chandrasekar, presented more serious subject matter, and also did well, achieving a £4,047 average (See “Other openers” chart).

The niche alternatives

With Fury, The Book of Life, Serena, This Is Where I Leave You and Love, Rosie landing collectively on more than 1,700 screens, and Disney’s Alexander… expanding to 450-plus locations, it was potentially tough for other fresh titles to be heard above the din. Going out into a more focused 147 cinemas, Aussie horror The Babadook did an encouraging £348,000, buoyed by warm reviews. The film may have done even better, had Annabelle not been proving so resilient in its third week of release (see chart below).

Polish hit Bogowie targeted the UK’s large Polish population, and grossed a handy £91,000 from 22 cinemas. The value of having an under-served and motivated audience can be seen in contrast to the result for Jimi: All Is By My Side, which took less than a third of the Bogowie tally (£24,000) from a similar number of cinemas (29).

In its second weekend of play, Northern Soul fell 66%, although that hefty drop is perhaps understandable given that the opening weekend was boosted by venues holding one-off showings, and many of these locations were not continuing to play the title. The film grossed £97,000 from 76 cinemas in its second frame, bringing the 10-day cume to a nifty £507,000. The similarly themed SoulBoy grossed £101,000 over its entire run in 2010, and Northern Soul has already achieved quintuple that number. One factor in the softening box-office may be the arrival last Monday of Northern Soul on DVD; the film is currently No 3 in the Amazon DVD and Blu-ray chart, behind Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie and Maleficent.

The 18-cert winner

With £17.06m to date, Gone Girl has recently overtaken the likes of Bruno, Django Unchained and Basic Instinct to win sixth place in the all-time UK chart for 18-certificate titles. It will very soon overtake fifth-placed The Silence of the Lambs (£17.12m), leaving it behind just The Wolf of Wall Street (£22.70m), Hannibal (£21.58m), American Beauty (£21.39m) and Seven (£19.52m).

The future

Daniel Radcliffe in Horns, which opens in the UK this week. Photograph: Allstar/LIONSGATE/Sportsphoto Ltd

Despite the profusion of new releases that arrived for the half-term holiday, no current title is really energising the market, and box office is down 15% from the previous frame and 12% below the equivalent session from 2013, when Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 ruled the roost. Thus ends the four-week run when box office ran ahead of the year-ago equivalent period. In two weeks’ time, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar arrives. In the meantime, cinemas will have to content themselves this week with Jake Gyllenhaal in the justly regarded Nightcrawler; genre title Ouija; Daniel Radcliffe in Horns; and Mike Leigh’s much-anticipated Mr Turner.

Top 10 films 24-26 October

1. Fury, £2,692,786 from 462 sites (new)
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, £1,927,733 from 522 sites. Total: £7,890,052
3. Gone Girl, £1,597,962 from 526 sites. Total: £17,064,765
4. The Book of Life, £981,432 from 536 sites (new)
5. The Maze Runner, £905,314 from 445 sites. Total: £5,863,858
6. Annabelle, £749,621 from 401 sites. Total: £6,013,797
7. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, £571,581 from 453 sites. Total: £697,680
8. Happy New Year, £568,203 from 100 sites (new)
9. Love, Rosie, £482,535 from 379 sites (new)
10. The Babadook, £347,512 from 147 sites (new)

Other openers

Kaththi, £222,583 from 55 sites (including £79,895 previews)
This is Where I Leave You, £109,441 from 222 sites
Serena, £95,109 from 185 sites
Bogowie, £90,623 from 22 sites
Bolshoi Ballet: The Legend of Love, £61,968 from 175 sites
Jimi: All Is By My Side, £24,243 from 29 sites
The Snow Queen, £20,644 from 81 sites
My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks, £19,705 from 80 sites
Poojai, £8,584 from 4 sites
Time Is Illmatic, £11,989 from five sites
Night Train to Lisbon, £4,554 from four sites
The Way He Looks, £4,476 from seven sites
Zabriskie Point, £784 from two sites

Thanks to Rentrak.

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