UK Box Office

Having earned a combined 14 stars from the Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw, three major awards contenders faced off at the UK box office at the weekend: Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Scott Cooper’s Black Mass and Todd Haynes’s Carol. The intended audiences could roughly be categorised as, respectively, older; male/multiplex; female/arthouse. But clearly there was always going to be a big overlap.

The reported numbers are skewed by previews, but going strictly by the Friday-to-Sunday period, the cold war thriller Bridge of Spies did best, with £1.48m from 531 cinemas. Gangster biopic Black Mass, released into a slightly more cautious 441 cinemas, took £905,000. And period romantic drama Carol, much tighter with a rollout into 206 venues, grossed £480,000. So site averages are £2,780 for Bridge of Spies, £2,053 for Black Mass and £2,328 for Carol. See the Top 10 chart below for how those opening grosses look including previews.

Steven Spielberg on Bridge of Spies, privacy and surveillance: ‘Everybody is in everybody else’s bananas’
For comparison, Spielberg’s last film, Lincoln, debuted in the UK in January 2013 with £1.66m – 13% ahead of the Bridge of Spies pace. If Bridge of Spies’ previews are added in, its opening figure is just ahead of that Lincoln number. Hanks was last in Saving Mr Banks, which opened more or less exactly two years ago with £796,000.

As for Black Mass, featuring Johnny Depp as real-life Boston gangster Whitey Bulger, it’s hardly fair to compare it with any of the actor’s recent films: Mortdecai, Into the Woods, Transcendence, The Lone Ranger, Dark Shadows, The Rum Diary. However, Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, in which he played real-life mobster John Dillinger, is an apt comparison. That one began with £1.59m (76% ahead of Black Mass), plus £635,000 in previews.
Director Haynes has a rather patchy commercial track record in the UK. His biggest hit is Far from Heaven, which began with a very comparable £452,000 from 195 cinemas, although ticket prices, of course, were lower in 2003. Cate Blanchett’s last starring role was in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which debuted in September 2013 with £793,000 from 188 venues, plus £41,000 in previews.

The Good Dinosaur ambles out of the gate

The Good Dinosaur debuted very much at the softer end of Pixar’s range: an opening of £2.93m compares very unfavourably with £7.38m for Inside Out’s first session in July this year.

Animated and family films traditionally open to capitalise on school holiday periods, when box office revenues quickly pile up. Christmas is a different case, with films traditionally landing relatively softly in November, then playing solidly into and through the holiday period. Disney anticipates this trajectory for The Good Dinosaur. Two years ago, it released Frozen in early December, achieving £4.70m in the opening frame. That film went on to earn £40m, a multiple of 8.5 times the debut. The year before, DreamWorks Animation’s Rise of the Guardians landed in late November with £1.97m. That one ended on £13m, which is 6.6 times the opening. In November 2011, Aardman’s Arthur Christmas began with £2.11m, eventually reaching £21.4m, a multiple of 10.1.
Disney points to an unexceptionally uncompetitive year for family films this Christmas, which it hopes will help The Good Dinosaur achieve – appropriately enough – a long tail. But the company’s own Star Wars: The Force Awakens should scoop up plenty of younger children, and then Fox’s The Peanuts Movie lands on December 21, so it remains to be seen how strongly The Good Dinosaur will sustain. Currently, the weakest-grossing Pixar film in the UK is Cars 2, with £15.71m.

If The Good Dinosaur does not achieve the big multiple of its opening number that Disney hopes for and expects, it would suffer the surprising humiliation of being beaten by Sony’s little-heralded Hotel Transylvania 2, which has been steadily accumulating box-office and now stands at £19.44m. Sony is hardly considered a powerhouse in the animation game, but now has a couple of steady franchises with Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.

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