UK Box Office

The winner: Working Title

UK production company Working Title occupies the top two slots in the chart, with Everest and Legend. There may have been some disquiet at the company over distributors Universal and StudioCanal dating the films for release just one week apart, but both are successfully coexisting in the market. Despite a diverse portfolio of titles, Working Title was for many years defined by its Richard Curtis-scripted comedy smashes, but the success of Everest and Legend – following on from The Theory of Everything in January and Rush in 2013 – should finally redefine perceptions.

Everest had been in development for more than a decade before cameras rolled in 2014 with Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur at the helm; in 2004, Stephen Daldry had gone to Everest to film background shots. The true story of a notorious climbing disaster in May 1996 – the subject of Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air and other published accounts – the 12A-certificate film is targeted broadly, with significant presentation in 3D and Imax. A handy £658,000 in previews boosted the opening total to £3.16m. Comparisons are tricky, since climbing disaster films are rare. Fictional feature Vertical Limit (2001) kicked off with £1.9m, or about £3m when adjusted for ticket-price inflation. Cliffhanger(1993) began with £1.35m.

Everest is the eighth No 1 hit for Universal this year, following The Theory of Everything, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fast & Furious 7, Pitch Perfect 2, Jurassic World,Minions and Straight Outta Compton. Universal, together with Fox (six chart toppers) and Disney (five) have dominated the box office this year. Warners, Paramount and Sony have had four No 1s between them; indie StudioCanal scored last week with Legend.

Despite pretty decent weather at the weekend, Legend fell by a relatively gentle 34% in its second frame, delivering a 12-day tally just short of £10m. Legend’s total is just ahead of Tom Hardy’s other big 2015 hit, Mad Max: Fury Road, at the same stage of its run, after two weekends of play. The success of Fury Road rested on an appetite for a high-profile franchise revival, whereas Hardy’s dual performance as Ronnie and Reggie Kray is Legend’s chief selling point.

Until a year ago, StudioCanal had scored only two £10m-plus hits – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and Rush. In the past 12 months, that tally has risen to six, with the release of The Imitation Game, Paddington, Shaun the Sheep Movie and now Legend, which crossed £10m on Monday. As for Hardy, his biggest hits have been in supporting roles in blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises andInception. Fury Road was his first lead role to pass £10m in the UK, and Legend is his second, making 2015 a significant turning point for the actor. Legend will soon be nudging the top 20 18-certificate films of all time in the UK, a list led by Fifty Shades of Grey, Gone Girl and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Three other films arrived on a total of 600 screens, none making much of a commercial impact. Best of the bunch for box office is A Walk in the Woods, adapted from the Bill Bryson memoir. Starring Robert Redford, Nick Nolte and Emma Thompson, the film has a clearly defined older audience, but this demographic didn’t exactly flock. Box office of £252,000 from 194 cinemas yields an average of £1,300.

A couple of places below it in the chart is Bill, from the team behind TV’s Horrible Histories. The film was something of an orphan project, its mooted release date drifting throughout this year. Then Koch, which was set to release it, got out of UK distribution, and the film landed in the lap of Vertigo. Children are at school, so September isn’t the ideal time for a family film, but then there isn’t much competition – the October half-term holiday will be owned by Warners’ big-budget Peter Pan prequel Pan. Bill grossed £222,000 from 297 cinemas, delivering an anaemic average of £734. It didn’t even win the battle for the family audience: Inside Out, in its ninth week of play, took significantly more at the weekend (£437,000). Pixels, in its sixth week and one place behind Bill, is also still drawing in family audiences.

Landing outside the top 30 is The D Train, a dark US indie comedy starring Jack Black and James Marsden. Sony managed to book it into 106 venues, but marketing support looked scant – a realistic decision given the film’s recent failure at the US box office. An opening gross of £8,500 resulted, for a woeful site average of £80.

Read More…