Family adventure Goosebumps may occupy the top spot in the official Rentrak UK box-office chart, but it does so via £1m of previews that inflate its opening gross. In fact, the weekend was won by Dad’s Army, with a solid £2.08m from 585 cinemas. The logic behind the belated big-screen reboot may be guessed at. Movies featuring ensemble casts of older actors have done well lately, notably with the two Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films. Films spun off from sitcoms have had variable results, but the Inbetweeners and Mrs Brown’s Boys movies demonstrated the power of a TV comedy brand with a loyal, enthusiastic audience – and Dad’s Army, over more than five decades, has proved an enduring winner.
The casting in the Dad’s Army film of one Best Exotic actor (Bill Nighy) and one Inbetweener (Blake Harrison) may be viewed as talismanic. Dad’s Army’s opening gross compares unfavourably with the debut of Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie (£4.30m) back in June 2014, but very favourably with the first weekend of The Bad Education Movie (£595,000) last August. An older audience skew should see solid results on weekdays. Matinees and early evening showtimes should be robust; late evenings, not so much. The new Dad’s Army is in fact a second big-screen outing for the Home Guard volunteers of Walmington-on-Sea. The original cast appeared in a film version in 1971.
The half-term battle
With most schools breaking up for February half term this Friday, distributors are competing for the biggest share of the family audience. In terms of chronology of release, there’s seemingly an inverse relationship to box-office potential, with the weaker titles grabbing some cash off the table ahead of the arrival of more formidable competition. Judging by the size of its preview takings at the weekend, Alvin and the Chipmunks: the Road Chip looks set to win the box-office war. The preview number will be reported next time, after Road Chip’s official opening this Friday. Meanwhile, Goosebumps, adapted from the RL Stine books, has begun with a decent £1.68m plus £1m in previews. Capture the Flag, which has enjoyed a week longer in cinemas, has notched up a rather lacklustre £1.01m so far. The half-term holiday should see an improvement, because even if the space-themed animation ends up being second or third choice, families may well get round to seeing it by the end of the school break, having exhausted everything else.