UK Box Office

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron Photograph: Jay Maidment/AP

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron Photograph: Jay Maidment/AP

Dropping a moderate 41% from its stonking opening weekend, Avengers: Age of Ultron grossed a healthy £8.59m in its second session to deliver an 11-day cumulative total of £32.3m, and £34.84m including bank holiday Monday, on 4 May. That’s both the highest second-frame takings and the highest total after two weekends of play since Skyfall in 2012.

The original Marvel The Avengers stood at £29.85m after the second weekend, meaning Ultron is running 8% ahead of the pace set by its predecessor. We would expect box-office on a sequel to be more front-loaded, so it’s likely that Ultron will decay faster than Avengers did, probably falling short of its mighty £51.8m final tally.
So far this year, the top grossing films are  with £36.87m, Ultron with £34.84m, and Fifty Shades of Grey with £34.81m. The Avengers film is evidently going to sail way past its existing 2015 rivals, setting a target for this year’s other likely big hitters (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre) to match. Only one 2014 release managed to cross the £40m threshold: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, with £41.26m.

Fast & Furious 7 looks set to fall just below £40m before the end of its run. If that occurs, distributor Universal will hardly be disappointed: the previous best in the franchise, Fast & Furious 6, topped out here with £25.3m. The seventh film is already 46% ahead of that total.

The new players
With no major Hollywood release daring to challenge the Avengers, even in the film’s second session, the release date offered counter-programming opportunities. Fox Searchlight rolled the dice on its new production of Far from the Madding Crowd, presumably taking note of the absence of major prestige fare in the market at this period. And Universal offered teen-skewing horrorUnfriended, which boasts the high-concept hook of unfolding essentially within an online video chat session on a laptop.

May isn’t a traditional month for literary period product, but the gamble paid off for Far from the Madding Crowd: Thomas Vinterberg’s Thomas Hardy adaptation debuted with £1.45m over the weekend, and £1.83m including bank holiday Monday.

Comparisons are tricky, because only one of Michael Winterbottom’s trio of Hardy adaptations – Jude, based on the 1895 book Jude the Obscure – is faithful to the original text’s setting. (The Claim and Trishna relocate The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the d’Urbervilles to the Sierra Nevada and Rajasthan, respectively.) The three films grossed £1.48m collectively over their lifetimes – the same as Far from the Madding Crowd did in its first three days. Vinterberg’s film benefits from what is presumably a more generous production budget, a cast led by Carey Mulligan, and source material that is positively uplifting by Hardy standards.
Unfriended, with a decent debut of £1.35m, looks likely to be a profitable title for Universal, given the rumoured $1m production budget. The film has grossed $29m in the US after two weeks of play. If the studio can recoup its whole marketing spend from the theatrical release, rich dividends await on DVD, video on demand and other platforms.

The family market
Four family films occupy positions fifth to eighth in the chart. Particularly worthy of notice is DreamWorks Animation’s Home, which has quietly piled up £21.82m in UK grosses, and £22.13m including bank holiday Monday. Not exactly a buzz title – Disney’s Big Hero 6, now at £20.12m, certainly arrived with more fanfare –Home has remained in the UK top five for seven consecutive weeks, and added another £1m to its tally over the weekend.

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