The winner #1: Hotel Transylvania 2
With a stonking opening of £6.32m, Hotel Transylvania 2 sits at the top of the UK box-office chart by a wide margin. Considering the original Hotel Transylvaniahas a lifetime UK gross of £8.30m, and the whole of the October half-term holiday is yet to come, distributor Sony has every reason to feel satisfied with its campaign. A big point to note, however, is that Hotel Transylvania 2 achieved its opening number thanks to a very aggressive previews strategy. The film played in cinemas for not just the previous Saturday and Sunday (10-11 October), but also the one before that (3-4 October). That means that the £6.32m debut represents takings from a full seven days of play. Over the actual 16-18 October period, it grossed £2.82m.
The success of Hotel Transylvania 2 confirms Sony as a growing player in animation. While Disney remains in poll position, thanks to its ownership of Pixar, and DreamWorks Animation is hanging on in second place, the chasing pack is closing in. Fox, of course, has its Ice Age franchise; Universal scored a golden ticket with Despicable Me; and Warners joined the elite club with The Lego Movie. With Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 (£12.59m), Sony managed to nearly double the UK gross of its predecessor (£6.64m) and may be looking to achieve a similar feat with the Hotel Transylvania franchise. Sony’s biggest hits in animation have so far come courtesy of its relationship with the Aardman studio: ie Arthur Christmas (£21.40m) and The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists(£16.86m).
The winner #2: Suffragette
When Sony moved the UK release date of Spectre from 23 October to 26 October, the switch created a problem for Pathé and Suffragette. Dated to release on 30 October, the film’s opening weekend would see it face competition from Spectre on its debut weekend. Pathé and its distribution partner Fox looked at all the alternative Fridays in October, and none of them worked, for different reasons. Suffragette had already been announced as the opening title of the London film festival (occurring on Wednesday 7 October), and the film had also been promised to a large number of partnership screenings, which all had to follow the festival premiere but precede release. Eventually, Fox came up with a novel suggestion for Suffragette: Monday 12 October. In other words, it was copying Sony’s Monday move. The date switch would give Suffragette two weeks of play before Spectre arrives and grabs at least 1,000 UK screens. Although the new date was pretty much forced on Pathé, the Monday move actually made a whole lot of sense. This is a film that was always going to skew towards women and older audiences; the latter have shown a marked preference for visiting the film on weekdays.
Women are more likely to see films with female friends midweek, and with male partners at weekends. In other words, Suffragette’s date switch would see it reaching some of its key audiences from the get-go. Suffragette grossed a decent £1.54m at the weekend, which would have been enough for fourth place in the chart. Those extra takings on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week push it to £2.94m, and second place. In the past, films that have opened on Monday have tended to be major family-skewing blockbusters, and have coincided with a half-term holiday – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in May 2004, for example. Instances have been rare, and it’s never been tried for a film like Suffragette. The success suggests it may soon be tried again for a film targeting an upscale adult audience. Suffragette’s strong performance on weekdays can be gauged by the fact that it was the top-grossing film on Monday, ahead of The Martian.
Third place: Pan
Released in the US one week ahead of the UK, Pan became stigmatised with the “flop” label before audiences here had any say in the matter. In fact, it’s done not so disastrously, with £1.68m at the weekend, and £2.74m including previews from the previous Saturday and Sunday. Relative to a reported $150m (£97m) production budget, the numbers are soft, but the film does have the whole half-term holiday ahead of it. There are no more big family films challenging for the holiday audience, so Hotel Transylvania 2 and Pan should chug along nicely. Of course, Spectre, rated 12A, will play massively to families with teens and pre-teens from next Monday.