The winner: The Death of Stalin
Debuting with £910,000 from just 138 cinemas, or £995,000 including previews, The Death of Stalin is the star performer of the UK weekend box office. Those numbers only land it a No 5 spot in the Top 10, but translate into a site average of £6,593 for the Armando Iannucci comedy, or £7,213 including previews – way ahead of most other titles.
In April 2009, Iannucci’s In the Loop also opened robustly, with £469,000 from 104 cinemas, including modest previews of £9,000. On that occasion, the site average was £4,509. The Death of Stalin has essentially doubled that result, although it opened a bit wider, and benefits from eight years of ticket price inflation. Distributor eOne can now decide just how wide to expand the ensemble comedy for the second week of play – there will be no shortage of cinemas clamouring to book it.
The empty spectacle: Geostorm
In the UK, distributor Warners took the probably wise decision of releasing Geostorm straight to the market without any screenings for critics – those who wanted to appraise Gerard Butler battling extreme weather had to line up with the paying public on Friday. Responses varied from “Dull disaster movie” (The Guardian) to “Appalling action flop” (Telegraph).
However, audiences did indeed materialise for Geostorm, and a UK opening of £1.63m could have been a lot worse. An IMDb user rating of 5.9/10 is hardly a ringing endorsement, but it’s better than the current Metacritic score of 21/100. Look for a quick exit from cinemas.
Three Indian films competed for the Diwali audience at the weekend, with honours pretty evenly shared. Going strictly by the weekend period, and in terms of total box office, top performer is Secret Superstar, produced by and starring Aamir Khan. The Hindi drama, which revolves around the life of a girl who aspires to be a singer, grossed £242,000 from 141 sites, and £273,000 including previews.
Mersal, starring Tamil superstar Vijay, landed higher in the comScore chart, thanks to arriving in cinemas on Wednesday. The Tamil and Telugu action thriller grossed a nifty £363,000 over the five days, or £216,00 from Friday to Sunday. The film played in just 40 cinemas, delivering a hefty site average of £5,410 for the weekend period.
Finally, ensemble action comedy Golmaal Again, from Singham and Chennai Express director Rohit Shetty, earned £206,000 from 107 cinemas. In total, the three films grossed £841,000. Last year, Ae Dil Hal Mushkil, starring Anushka Sharma, Ranbir Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, pretty much had the Diwali audience to itself, debuting with £617,000 from 132 cinemas, on its way to a total of £1.47m.
The flop: Marshall
Marshall, a biographical drama about Thurgood Marshall, the first African American supreme court justice, always presented a distribution challenge for the UK. Marshall is famous in the US, but significantly less so overseas. Sony UK’s release of the film into 75 cinemas was not accompanied by a very visible marketing campaign, suggesting little faith in Marshall’s commercial potential. A debut gross of just under £15,000 resulted, yielding a weak average of £200.
Still, that’s better than the outcome achieved by Access All Areas, a teen flick set against the backdrop of an island music festival (and filmed largely at Bestival on the Isle of Wight). The luckless film grossed a pitiful £1,021 from 17 cinemas, which translates into a £60 average.
Incredibly, 28 new releases landed in cinemas at the weekend: six landing in the Top 10, and 22 others. However, the combined might of these and other films on release didn’t prove particularly enticing to audiences. The market overall declined 17% from the previous session, and was also 33% down on the equivalent weekend from 2016, when Trolls and Jack Reacher were the top new titles. Salvation for cinema owners arrives on 24 October in the shape of Thor: Ragnarok. It’s joined two days later by Saw sequel/reboot Jigsaw, and then on 27 October by awards contenders Breathe and Call Me By Your Name.
Top 10 Films October 20-22
1. Blade Runner 2049, £1,791,027 from 617 sites. Total: £15,718,087 (three weeks)
2. Geostorm, £1,625,895 from 477 sites (new)
3. The Lego Ninjago Movie, £1,346,411 from 623 sites. Total: £5,557,445 (two weeks)
4. Happy Death Day, £998,388 from 416 sites (new)
5. The Death of Stalin, £995,458 from 138 sites (new)
6. My Little Pony, £916,123 from 531 sites (new)
7. Kingsman: The Golden Circle, £884,067 from 451 sites. Total: £23,357,625 (five weeks)
8. The Snowman, £591,453 from 528 sites. Total: £2,718,293 (two weeks)
9. Mersal, £362,593 from 40 sites (new)
10. Secret Superstar, £272,554 from 141 sites (new)
Golmaal Again, £205,545 from 107 sites
Bolshoi Ballet: Le Corsaire, £88,995 from 142 sites
Paw Patrol: Big Screen Tails, £35,332 from 106 sites
Earth: One Amazing Day, £28,729 from 88 sites
I Am Not a Witch, £24,445 from 16 sites
Seven Sundays, £17,026 from three sites
Marshall, £14,967 from 75 sites
Jungle, £11,832 from 12 sites
The Ballad of Shirley Collins, £10,688 from six sites
North By Northwest, £7,544 from three sites (reissue)
Unrest, £7,284 from five sites
Brawl in Cell Block 99, £5,421 from 23 sites
Dina, £4,565 from nine sites
We Are X: Live In-Person Q&A with Yoshiki, £3,241 from one site
Cingöz Recai, £2,365 from one site
Udaharanam Sujatha, £1,708 from nine sites
Ilk Öpücük, £1,330 from two sites
Bad Day for the Cut, £1,145 from one site
The Princess Bride (30th anniversary), £1,128 from one site
Access All Areas, £1,021 from 17 sites
Dangar Doctor Jelly, £995 from two sites
Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, £568 from one site