The winner: The BFG
After The BFG opened in the US with a disappointing $18.8m (£14.3m), there was no shortage of media opinion along the lines of Variety’s “The BFG flops: has Steven Spielberg lost his blockbuster touch?” (In that particular article, Brent Lang deemed the director a failure and said he was “no longer attuned to the zeitgeist”.) In the UK, local distributor eOne – which had made what must have been a costly acquisition – would have been forgiven for any concern. On the other hand, Roald Dahl is especially beloved in the UK, and The BFG features British characters in a British setting – a fact that the film has honoured with a British cast led by Mark Rylance. The UK box office has consistently punched above its weight with family films adapted from British-authored material, fromCharlie and the Chocolate Factory (£37.8m) and Alice in Wonderland (£42.5m) toThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (£44.4m) and, of course, Paddington (£38m).
The outcome? The BFG opened in the UK with a sturdy £5.29m, nabbing the top spot ahead of fellow new release Star Trek Beyond. That’s slightly ahead of the debut figure for Paddington (£5.13m) in November 2014. Weekend weather was warm and mostly sunny, especially on Saturday – not helpful to the cinema industry; the more cloudy Sunday was the film’s strongest day of the weekend. The BFG went out into 680 cinemas, compared with 535 for Star Trek Beyond; Spielberg’s fantasy clearly fit in well at independent venues and multiplexes. Industry rule of thumb dictates that a UK equivalent of the US opening would be around £1.9m (10% of the US box office, with the dollar symbol changed to the pound symbol), whereas the The BFG came in way ahead of that number. This general rule, of course, is not as applicable to films with strong British elements.
The runner-up: Star Trek Beyond
Paramount and JJ Abrams rebooted the Star Trek brand in 2009, delivering a film that opened in the UK with £5.95m (including £872,000 in previews), on its way to a £21.4m total. Four years later, Star Trek Into Darkness kicked off with an impressive £8.43m (including £1.57m previews), finally arriving at £25.8m. Now comes Star Trek Beyond, which has begun with £4.74m – a 31% drop on the Into Darkness debut number, if previews are discounted. Star Trek Beyond may have suffered from director JJ Abrams’ exit into rival franchise Star Wars (he remains as producer). Or fans might have been more excited by Benedict Cumberbatch as the main villain last time around, with Beyond baddie Idris Elba less proven at the box office. And Paramount may have struggled to persuade broader audiences to see a third Star Trek film. A final gross below £20m looks likely.
The one-off concert
Year after year, Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu breaks cinema box-office records with his annual summer concert, filmed in his hometown of Maastricht. Takings are up again this year, boosted by strong encore screenings on Sunday afternoon. This cinema audience has a strong skew to the over-75 demographic, making the 7pm transmission on Saturday evening a challenge for some audience members. Box office was a mighty £1.41m, up from £1.11m in 2015 and £831,000 in 2014. The broadcast penetrated even more cinemas this year, with 534 carrying the concert in the UK and Ireland, up from 460 last year and 395 in 2014. Also flying the flag for event cinema was Secret Cinema’s presentation of Dirty Dancing. Takings of £954,000 were slightly up on the previous weekend. The run of just six dates delivered a final box office of £1.90m. That’s more than the combined runs of the original 1987 release (£1.62m) and the 20th-anniversary rerelease in 2007 (£224,000).Read More….