UK Box Office

 Melissa McCarthy in this week’s top movie Spy. Photograph: Larry Horricks

Melissa McCarthy in this week’s top movie Spy. Photograph: Larry Horricks

The first properly sunny weekend of the summer is always a difficult time for cinema operators, as audiences shun darkened theatres in favour of parks and barbecues, and it’s no great surprise to see every held-over title in the top 10 decline by at least 50% from the previous weekend.

It’s in this challenging context that Spy’s sturdy debut session (£2.36m plus £198,000 in previews) must be viewed. That compares with a £1.59m opening salvo (plus £910,000 in previews) for the previous team-up between Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig, The Heat. That film benefited from the star power of an equal-billed Sandra Bullock, whereas McCarthy is front and centre in Spy, supported by Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law and Miranda Hart.

Feig previously directed McCarthy in Bridesmaids – debut of £2.41m plus £1.03m previews – but her role was supporting. Audiences so far are giving Spy a robust approval rating of 76/100 at IMDb, which is well aligned with the MetaCritic score of 75/100. Spy performed particularly well at Vue and Cineworld venues, with the two chains dominating the top 10 sites for the film. Vue Westfield leads the way, ahead of Vue West End and Cineworld Glasgow Renfrew. The film faced competition from Pitch Perfect 2, which is holding stronger in its fourth week of play than Spy distributor Fox presumably imagined when it selected a 5 June release date.

However, most of the major releases currently are action fare, with Spy offering a clear alternative. McCarthy’s last leading role was in Tammy – a film that underwhelmed its audience, earning a 4.8/10 IMDb user rating. Tammy didn’t poison the McCarthy well, with audiences coming out in force for Spy, presumably reassured by the Feig brand, supporting cast and the film’s classic fish-out-of-water premise.

The event: Secret Cinema
Crashing straight into the top 10 despite playing at just a single venue, Secret Cinema’s presentation of The Empire Strikes Back grossed an impressive £304,000 in four days. The event is now playing Tuesday to Sunday until 27 September, so has another 16 weeks to run. In total, there are 100 play dates. This is a more ambitious presentation than Back to the Future, which ran for 20 daysover five weeks last August, grossing £3.37m. The Empire Strikes Back’s Secret Cinema debut compares unfavorably with Back to the Future’s £720,000 for its first four days, although the capacity of the venue this time is smaller than last year’s east London location.

How the ticket revenue splits between Secret Cinema and Empire Strikes Back distributor Fox is a topic of much speculation. If Fox pushed for too big a piece of the pie, Secret Cinema had the option to select another film. On the other, the organiser needs an iconic title, now that the event is on such a gigantic scale, with a potential audience this year of 100,000, and a ticket price of £78.

The duelling chart veterans
Ever since Mad Max: Fury Road and Pitch Perfect 2 were released on 15 May, they have been tussling for supremacy. The Barden Bellas convincingly won the first round, were edged out by Mad Max a week later over the Bank Holiday weekend, pulled ahead again in the third session and now find themselves behind the dusty road warriors in week four.

In terms of cumulative box-office, Fury Road has closed the gap, and is now £510,000 behind Pitch Perfect 2’s £16.08m. Both films seem to be heading for the high teens in £m, and it’s anyone’s guess which will end up on top. Mad Max looks more vulnerable to the arrival this weekend of heavyweight contenderJurassic World.

The genre sequel
Insidious: Chapter 3 has opened at a level exactly the same as the original film in the series, from 2011, but only half of the debut of the 2013 sequel. The firstInsidious began its life with £1.44m, going on to achieve a lifetime gross of £7.14m. Insidious: Chapter 2 began with a much more robust £2.88m, but then fell away rapidly – as you’d expect with a horror sequel – ending up with a similar total, £7.24m. The worry for distributor eOne is that Chapter 3, having begun with a number identical to the first film, may now burn out at a rate similar to the second. On the other hand, Chapter 3 will have been knocked by the weekend sun, and the missing audience may now catch up with it.

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