The battling duo
No change at the top of the UK chart, as Big Hero 6 and Kingsman: The Secret Service hold on to the top two spots. Once again, Disney’s animation won the honours for the weekend, as can be seen in the top 10 below, although the bigger picture is more complicated.
With its family skew, Big Hero 6 takes the bulk of its business on Saturday and Sunday, and the official box-office chart happens to measure takings on those two days, plus Friday. Whereas Kingsman, with an adult skew, is earning money every evening of the week.
Despite losing on both the first and second weekend to Big Hero 6, the cumulative total for Kingsman stands at £8.25m, against £7.48m for the Disney title. Both those numbers include previews. Strip out the previews, and Kingsman earned £7.57m, while Big Hero 6 took £7m. The margin should increase as the week progresses.
However, the February half-term holiday begins on Friday, which is when Big Hero 6 will really start surging. We can expect it to spank Kingsman every day next week. In fact, schools have already broken up in Scotland, so this will be boosting Big Hero 6 north of the border this week.
The family competition
Disney doesn’t have the family audience all to itself this half-term, with Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep the Movie also in the mix. The animated adventure opened in third place, with a decent £2.10m. That’s well down on the debut of 2005’s Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were Rabbit (£9.37m, including £2.92m in previews), which was similarly based on a popular Aardman TV brand. Aardman’s The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists kicked off in March 2012 with £2.18m, including £278,000 in previews. Shaun has opened at a very similar level. Like Big Hero 6, Shaun should benefit from strong sales during the school holiday.
Originally set for release last July, and with a budget reportedly north of $170m, the Wachowskis’ space adventure Jupiter Ascending certainly qualifies as a Hollywood blockbuster in scale and conception. Going by its box-office, however, the blockbuster designation seems misapplied. It earned a less-than-sensational £1.35m from 428 cinemas. That’s by no means in the same category of painful Wachowski flop Speed Racer (debut of £362,000), but it’s probably a lot less than backers Warners hoped when the studio approved the film’s script, cast and budget. The number shouldn’t hurt Channing Tatum too much, as he is a proven box-office star, but it probably won’t do much to strengthen the negotiating hand of Mila Kunis’s agent. Previous hits for the actress – Black Swan, Ted, Oz the Great and Powerful – have featured her in supporting roles.
The upscale alternative
At independent cinemas, the top-grossing film is new arrival Selma, with £792,000 including £70,000 in previews. Among the eight films nominated for the best picture Oscar, that number is behind the debuts of The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, American Sniper and Birdman (all over £1m), and ahead of only Whiplash (£573,000, including £38,000 previews) and Boyhood (£333,000 – but from only 89 cinemas). Selma’s screen average is an OK £2,232, or £2,035 if the previews are removed. The film’s top sites are a mix of independent cinemas (best of all is Ritzy in London’s Brixton) and upscale multiplex venues.
Comparisons with previous titles are very hard to make, but for the record, 12 Years a Slave debuted with £2.51m including £41,000 in previews, and before that The Butler kicked off with £794,000 from 284 cinemas. A richer haul of nominations for Selma, which would then have been trumpeted on marketing, might have aided its cause. The film was completely ignored by Bafta, for example.
Propping up the bottom of the top 10 is The Interview, starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. The comedy earned a weak £284,000 from 287 venues, yielding a £989 average. Had backers Sony been able to release the film late last year, when curiosity was at its highest, due to the widely reported hack of the studio’s email server, it would surely have done better. The digital release of The Interview in North America last Christmas saw it appear rapidly on pirate sites, which must have eroded the UK box office, given the time lag. A worldwide simultaneous digital release would have given UK film fans easy legal alternatives to pirate sites. (Tech-savvy UK consumers with US iTunes accounts did have a legal method to see it.) This Is the End, similarly featuring the two actors and directed by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, began in June 2013 with £1.39m.
The big faller
When Trash landed the previous weekend with £79,000 from 158 screens, it was evident that the film was struggling to establish a foothold in the market. However, even with that faltering start, the second weekend performance must rank as disappointing. Trash fell to 41st place, dropping a cruel 90% from the opening session, with takings this time of just £8,100 from 39 cinemas. The 10-day total is £150,000. With a respectable 6.9/10 IMDb user rating and a 63/100 MetaCritic score, there is almost certainly an audience for this film. The challenge now for distributor Universal is persuading some cinemas to hold Trash, allowing that audience to find it.
Although by no means in the same league, Inherent Vice is also struggling to retain audience share, falling 61% from its opening frame. That’s the kind of drop you might reasonably expect to see for a youthful-skewing genre flick rather than a Paul Thomas Anderson film based on upscale source material (the Thomas Pynchon book). Cinemas have reported some customer walkouts for a film a few wags have dubbed Incoherent Vice. On the other hand, the IMDb user rating remains a supportive 7.1/10.
Overall, the market is currently the very definition of average, ranking 27th out of 52 for the past year. It’s 4% down on the equivalent session from February 2014; and it’s 6% down on average weekend takings for the past year. Now, however, multiplex bookers are panting with excitement at the arrival on 13 February of Fifty Shades of Grey. Chains are reporting sizzling advance bookings, with the release date nicely timed for Valentine’s weekend. All the other major studios are running scared, with nothing much of commercial potential going up against the BDSM juggernaut. In limited play, the well-regarded Love Is Strange, expanding from its current London West End platform, has the best shot of making a mark. Quick-burst rereleases include Grease Singalong on Saturday (in Cineworld cinemas) and Casablanca (in Odeons) on Sunday.
Top 10 films, 6-8 February
1. Big Hero 6, £2,540,116 from 513 sites. Total: £7,476,518
2. Kingsman: The Secret Service, £2,190,090 from 545 sites. Total: £8,245,752
3. Shaun the Sheep Movie, £2,095,061 from 509 sites (new)
4. Jupiter Ascending, £1,349,938 from 428 sites (new)
5. American Sniper, £980,434 from 459 sites. Total: £11,084,808
6. Selma, £792,365 from 355 sites (new)
7. The Theory of Everything, £626,335 from 433 sites. Total: £17,866,928
8. Into the Woods, £326,355 from 427 sites. Total: £8,912,600
9. Taken 3, £323,346 from 333 sites. Total: £17,180,518
10. The Interview, £283,811 from 287 sites (new)
Yennai Arindhaal, £105,184 from 36 sites
Shamitabh, £53,130 from 45 sites
Patrick’s Day, £16,059 from 18 sites (Ireland only)
Amour Fou, £6,135 from 8 sites
Still Life, £4,198 from 2 sites