UK Box Office

The winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

For the fourth weekend in a row, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has topped the UK box office. Weekend takings of £2.73m take the cumulative total to £42.4m. After 24 days of play, the JK Rowling-scripted wizarding adventure has overtaken the lifetime box office of every 2016 release except three films: Bridget Jones’s Baby (£47.9m), The Jungle Book (£46.2m) and Finding Dory (£42.8m).

In 2016, although quite a few titles managed three weeks at the top spot – The Revenant, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, Bridget Jones’s Baby – none has extended its reign to a fourth week, until now. Fantastic Beasts seems to be cruising towards top box-office honours for 2016, but faces a big challenge with the arrival on Thursday of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. On the other hand, the start of the school holidays later this month should provide another boost. Either way, Fantastic Beasts looks a dead cert to overtake the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film, 2004’s The Prisoner of Azkaban (£46.1m). (That comparison is not adjusted for inflation.)

The runner-up: Moana

 Dropping just 13% from its opening session, Moana enjoys the strongest hold of any film in the Top 10. But after 10 days, box office is a troublingly low £4.77m – and the picture has a long road to travel to reach a number that would be respectable for a major release from Disney Animation (£20m, although Zootropolis did £24m). Disney-Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur had reached £5.12m at the same stage of its run, and that film ended on a disappointing £15.1m. Disney may now be wondering if Moana would have done better in the traditional late January/early February spot, positioned for February half-term – this worked in recent years for Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Instead, Universal Illumination has nabbed that slot for Sing (out 27 January).

The top new release: Office Christmas Party

Landing at fourth place in the chart, Office Christmas Party begins with a decent £1.20m, including previews of £288,000. That compares with a debut of £799,000 for Bad Santa 2 a couple of weeks ago. Distributor eOne will now hope to grab as much cash for both these titles this week and next; from Boxing Day onwards, Christmas-themed works tend to evaporate at the box office.

Office Christmas Party’s formula of festive high jinks might seem a fairly safe commercial bet, but Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie struck out with the drug-fuelled The Night Before in December 2015, debuting with a poor £273,000 from 279 cinemas. Office Christmas Party has the benefit of a highly relatable premise, and arguably also a something-for-everyone cast (including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and TJ Miller – AKA the barman from Deadpool).

The live event: The Nutcracker

Missing from the official comScore weekend chart – because it occurred last Thursday – is The Nutcracker ballet, beamed live from London’s Royal Opera House. The event grossed £796,000 on Thursday, with weekend encores pushing the total to £921,000. That would have been enough to earn The Nutcracker fifth place in the chart, had comScore combined all the takings into a single figure.

While crowds flocked to The Nutcracker, the usually reliable New York Met Opera fell horribly flat on Saturday with L’Amour de Loin. The live event grossed a poor £81,000 from 173 cinemas, which compares with £254,000 from 177 venues for Mozart’s Don Giovanni in October. It’s fair to say that the composer of L’Amour de Loin – Finland’s Kaija Saariaho – is not so familiar to the target audience. L’Amour de Loin was first performed in 2000, and hardly qualifies as a beloved classic.

The arthouse battle

Two major new indie films struggled to engage significant audiences. Oliver Stone’s Snowden, released into 184 cinemas, managed an OK-sounding £209,000, but that figure is boosted by £68,000 of previews. Strip those out, and the site average falls to a poor £768. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation achieved £135,000 from 196 venues, but again this number includes fairly hefty previews of £49,000. Remove them, and the site average falls to a weedy £441.

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