UK Box Office

The winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Looking at the release calendar at the start of the year, it was hard to spot any likely £50m box office hits for the first 10 months. But cinema bookers always had their hopes up for two films arriving near year’s end: Rogue One (landing 16 December) and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the latest collaboration between JK Rowling and Harry Potter producer David Heyman.

Commercially, the challenge might have been that the source material – essentially a picture book published in 2001 for Comic Relief – does not have the same brand value as Harry Potter. And after eight Potter films, audiences beyond the core fanbase might have decided that they’d already had ample enjoyment of Rowling’s wizarding cinematic universe. On the other hand, it’s been five years since the final Potter film, stoking pent-up demand and bringing to the party a whole new generation of children. A debut screenplay from Rowling herself was another bonus, while director David Yates’s hand on the tiller provided reassuring continuity – he directed the last four Potter movies.

The outcome – a UK opening of £15.33m from 668 cinemas – will provide plenty of delight to distributor Warners. This is the biggest debut of any film this year, ahead of 2016’s two big superhero smackdowns, Captain America: Civil War(debut £14.47m) and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (£14.62m). The film benefited from saturation of the multiplexes, with Warners reporting that the film occupied about 1,900 screens within those 666 venues. Rainy skies created the perfect weather for cinema outings.

Compared to the Potter films, the Fantastic Beasts debut number is down on most, although previews complicate comparisons. In fact, if you strip out the preview figures from the Potter opening numbers, Fantastic Beasts opened bigger than the first six Potter films, and is beaten only by the debuts of The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (£18.32m, no previews) and Part 2 (£23.77m, no previews). These comparisons are not adjusted for ticket price inflation.

While Fantastic Beasts faces competition for the family audience from 2 December with the arrival of Disney animation Moana, there is nothing much until Rogue One, giving Rowling’s film a clear four-week run at audiences and then into the festive holiday period. With an 8.0/10 user rating currently at IMDb, there’s every reason to think that the film will achieve a healthy multiple of the opening number, and quickly become the first 2106 release to crack £50m.

The event: Christmas with André

I, Daniel Blake Day scores £111,000

With Fantastic Beasts grabbing screens from every existing film in the market, especially the more mature titles, I, Daniel Blake had its site count tumble to 123 from 225 the previous weekend, and box office fell by 60%. Ken Loach’s film nevertheless saw a tidy jump in its cumulative takings over the past seven days: it’s now at £2.84m. I, Daniel Blake Day saw the film expand on 17 November only into 442 cinemas, with Labour MPs seeing the film that day and then campaigning via social media against the government’s announced cut to employment support allowance.

The film grossed £111,000 that day, which distributor eOne calculates represents about £75,000 additional business generated by the event, or an additional 10,000 people seeing the film. To give back, eOne is allowing more than 100 community cinemas to play the film on DVD from 1 January on heavily reduced terms – an initiative that has the enthusiastic support of Loach. The DVD and digital release will come after 13 February, which is when the 16.5-week theatrical window demanded by UK multiplex cinemas is completed.

The Japanese smash: Your Name

Japanese anime Your Name has begun relatively quietly with weekend takings of £22,000 (including £5,000 in previews) from 17 cinemas. This platform release, however, is just the warm-up for an expansion on 24 November for one day only into more than 100 sites, with many of the screenings already sold out. A conventional release follows at 15 cinemas from Friday. Your Name has grossed more than ¥ 17.97bn (£136.72m) in Japan.

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