UK Box Office

The winner: The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment, maker of Despicable Me and Minions, has scored another big hit with its latest animated feature, The Secret Life of Pets. The opening weekend gross of £9.58m includes £3.63m from previews the previous Saturday and Sunday. Although the film was accompanied by a Minions short, the Universal-owned animation house will be pleased that these numbers have been achieved by a new property that isn’t a Despicable Me sequel or spinoff.

With or without previews, Pets has delivered the biggest animated opening of the year. Disney’s Zootropolis began with £5.31m including £1.73m in previews.Kung Fu Panda 3 kicked off with £4.77m including £1.59m in previews. Angry Birds started with £2.14m.

As for former Illumination hits, Despicable Me began its run in October 2010 with £3.66m including previews of £205,000. Despicable Me 2 followed three years later with a stunning debut of £14.82m including £4.87m in previews. A year ago, Minions launched with £11.56m.

Warm word of mouth has propelled Zootropolis to £23.65m. Given the stronger start, Universal will surely be hoping to push Pets beyond that tally. No direct competition arrives until Ice Age: Collision Course and Finding Dory in July.

The runner-up: Independence Day: Resurgence

When Independence Day arrived in US cinemas in July 1996, it set the template for the summer action blockbuster, concentrating Hollywood studio minds on high concepts and spectacle rather than A-list star packages. The following month, it reached UK cinemas, taking an explosive £7.01m, on its way to a final tally of £37.1m.

Belated sequel Independence Day: Resurgence arrives in a different landscape in which there has been no shortage of action blockbusters propelled by high concepts and spectacular visual effects. Its UK opening of £5.07m included previews of £944,000. If previews are included, that’s the ninth biggest debut of the year so far, behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (£14.62m), Captain America: Civil War (£14.47m), Deadpool (£13.73m), The Jungle Book (£9.90m), The Secret Life of Pets (£9.58m), X-Men: Apocalypse (£7.35m), Zootropolis (£5.31m) and The Revenant (£5.24m).

Indie movies stumble

Several new releases offered alternatives to the big two blockbusters, and all under performed to varying degrees. Elvis & Nixon starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey recounts an intriguing celebrity meeting, but it was always hard to imagine audiences flocking, especially outside the US. It begins with £57,000 from 107 cinemas, yielding a weak £531 average. But that result is positively joyful when compared with The Meddler, starring Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne. This film needed to be in indie cinemas to connect with its likeliest audience, but those venues had other choices, and Sony instead released it overwhelmingly in multiplexes, grossing £19,300 from 103 venues.

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