UK Box Office

The previous weekend (11-13 December) was the lowest-grossing of the year. Now the UK box office has recovered in spectacular fashion thanks to the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The franchise reboot’s three-day weekend gross of £24.33m set a new record at UK and Ireland cinemas, ahead of the £23.75m achieved by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 in July 2011. Thursday takings of £9.68m pushed the opening tally to £34.01m – a record for a four-day debut.

In November, Spectre’s three-day weekend debut was £19.98m, 18% behind the pace set by The Force Awakens. However, a more generous preview period pushed Spectre’s opening to a bigger £41.30m – a number grossed from nearly a whole week of play.
The Force Awakens’ first day of £9.68m is the biggest ever opening day in the UK, although it’s worth noting that it was boosted by significant takings from 12.01am previews on Wednesday night. The film also achieved the biggest Saturday (£8.71m) and Sunday (£8.58m) of all time. Disney takes heart from the exceptionally small dip of 1.5% from Saturday to Sunday, suggesting the film is set to show strong legs. Over the weekend, The Force Awakens achieved a market share of 83%, which is the biggest ever recorded for a single title. Saturation play is on around 2,500 screens in the UK and Ireland, at 670 cinemas. The film helped push UK takings to a spectacular 512% rise on the previous frame, when a dearth of new releases had caused extreme stagnation in the market.

Disney has announced Monday takings of £5.83m, which is likewise a record haul for a Monday, beating Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’s 2004 Bank Holiday Monday tally of £5.05m. The additional box office pushes The Force Awakens to a five-day total of £39.81m.

What happens next depends on the answers to two questions. To what degree has the audience for this highly anticipated film already rushed out to see it? And how robust will repeat business be? Anecdotally, the latter already looks set to be a major factor in the success of the film. However, The Force Awakens must surely suffer a significant drop on its second weekend of play, covering the 25-27 December period – after all, cinemas are closed on Christmas Day in the UK.

Disney reports the format splits as 54% of box office in 2D, 36% in 3D and 10% in Imax. In terms of admissions numbers, that number would be a bit higher in 2D and lower in the other formats, given lower ticket prices for 2D, and probably also a bigger skew in child and family tickets for 2D. Disney also reminds us that The Force Awakens’ four-day total of £34.01m is more than the lifetime totals of every Transformers movie, every Spider-Man title and sleeper hits such as Gravity and Slumdog Millionaire.

Sisters achieves £1m ‘weekend’

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler achieved a £1.22m debut in the UK with their new comedy Sisters. If that number sounds robust, especially given competition from a new Star Wars film, a look at the small print is required. Sisters effectively opened in UK cinemas on 12 December, and played six days of previews in advance of the 18-20 December weekend, earning £734,000. The film’s actual weekend figure is a less sturdy £481,000, from 442 cinemas.

Existing titles collapse

The Force Awakens was always going to have a big impact on existing titles in the marketplace, taking away screens and showtimes, and sucking away audience attention. Spectre shed over 100 cinemas, and fell 63% in box office from the previous session. Bridge of Spies lost more than 250 venues, and dropped by 73% in box-office. Carol saw box office decline by 67%, The Lady in the Van by 76% and Black Mass by 82%. Bucking the trend is family animation The Good Dinosaur, which fell a relatively slim 30%, and festive comedy Christmas With the Coopers, down 45%.

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