UK Box Office

The indie winner: I, Daniel Blake

It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, comes from a beloved British auteur and has garnered critical acclaim, but would Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake prove too tough a sell for cinema audiences? If UK distributor eOne had any qualms, they have surely evaporated now that I, Daniel Blake has opened with an impressive £404,000 from 94 cinemas, and £445,000 including previews. Stripping out the previews, site average is a very robust £4,298.

Loach’s most recent previous feature, Jimmy’s Hall, from 2014, was a relative commercial disappointment, achieving £543,000 in its lifetime (its full theatrical run). Before that, he had documentary The Spirit of ’45 (£236,000 lifetime). Then there was 2012’s The Angels’ Share, which eOne successfully positioned as a mainstream comedy in Scotland and as an arthouse title in the rest of the UK, achieving a total of £1.98m. Loach’s biggest-ever hit in his home market remains The Wind That Shakes the Barley (£3.91m), a particular success that may be attributed to the fact that the UK and Ireland is one combined box office territory, and this Irish revolutionary tale scored huge numbers in the Republic.

The challenge for eOne with I, Daniel Blake was to position the film as inspiring rather than depressing angry-making, and the film’s rousing marketing image, with the graffiti title treatment and lead actor Dave Johns’ defiant raised left fist, has evidently punched through that feeling to audiences.

The mainstream winner: Trolls

Following Kung Fu Panda 3, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory and Sausage Party, Trolls is the fifth animated film so far this year to land at the UK box office top spot. Weekend takings of £3.01m add to previews of £2.43m for a £5.44m debut. For comparison, the last non-sequel from DreamWorks Animation, Home, began in March 2015 with £6.03m, not including previews. Distribution partner Fox will be hoping to pick up the pace this week with Trolls, as the October half-term holiday creates huge daily availability of the family audience.

The surprising omission from that list of 2016 animated chart toppers is Zootropolis, which lost out on the top spot successively to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, The Huntsman: Winter’s War and The Jungle Book. Additionally, titles such as The BFG and The Jungle Book contain significant portions of animation. Top animation for the year so far is Finding Dory, with £42.4m.

The runner-up: Jack Reacher

Once again, a Jack Reacher film has failed to claim the chart summit. The first one failed to dislodge The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Life of Pi from the top two chart places when it arrived Boxing Day weekend in 2012. Now sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is bested by Trolls.

Never Go Back opens with £2.42m, and £2.69m including previews. That compares with Jack Reacher’s debut of £2.33m, and £3.58m including more extensive previews. The original Jack Reacher film maxed out at £9.45m, and distributor Paramount would presumably be delighted to match that number this time around.

Admissions update

Admissions figures – number of tickets sold – are in for September, and they make encouraging reading for UK cinemas. September is not traditionally a strong month for cinemagoing, and admissions of 11.66m represent a 26% increase on the same month last year. In fact, this has been the busiest September for UK cinemas since 1997, when The Full Monty pulled in audiences across the land.

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