UK Box Office

Les Miserables

Given the huge popularity of the long-running London stage show, commercial expectations were always high for the film adaptation of Les Misérables. But a UK opening of £8.13m is certainly at the top end of the range of industry forecasts. The previous best debut for a movie musicalstood at £6.59m – for Mamma Mia! – but that tally included previews of £1.38m; over the comparative Friday-Sunday period it earned just £5.21m. Les Misérables is an impressive 56% ahead of Mamma Mia!pace. Backers Universal also announced the film as the biggest opening for a January release, beating 2005’s Meet the FockersThe King’s Speech, Les Misérables director Tom Hooper‘s previous film, debuted exactly two years ago with £3.52m (including £227,000 in previews).

Les Misérables isn’t setting a UK box-office record in any absolute sense: last year, for example, Skyfall (debut of £20.18m), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2(£15.85m) and The Dark Knight Rises(£14.36m) began their respective runs with much higher tallies. But it’s hardly fair tocompare a West End stage adaptation to a tentpole action blockbuster or highly anticipated franchise picture, and the audience for a sung-through historical drama would normally be considered niche. Sweeney Toddis arguably the closest equivalent, and Tim Burton‘s film earned £11.1m in total during its 2008 UK run. Evita did better in 1996, with £14.2m.

Regardless of whether you include or exclude the previews in Mamma Mia!’s opening tally, the film went on to gross £69.2m, a total more than 10 times its debut takings. Will Les Misérables could go on to perform a similar feat? It seems doubtful, since that would take it into the realms of £80m-plus, making it the third biggest ever UK hit, behind Skyfall andAvatar. More plausibly, a multiple of five times the opening would be a decent targetTwitter reports suggest the film is provoking a strong response, with plenty of audience applause and crying. That would indicate the film is a talking point for a big swathe of the UK cinema audience. Repeat business is likely to be significant among core fans. So far, there is little evidence of audience appetite for a singalong version.

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