UK Box Office

The winner #1: Sing

Illumination Entertainment’s Sing stormed to the top of the UK box office, taking £10.48m including previews of £4.20m. For context, the biggest-grossing animations last year were Pixar’s Finding Dory and Illumination’s own The Secret Life of Pets. Finding Dory opened with a stunning £8.12m on its way to a total of £42.9m (the fifth biggest movie of 2016), while Pets began with £9.58m, ending up with £36.3m (10th biggest film of 2016).

If sequels – and spinoffs such as Minions – are ignored, you’d struggle to find many animated films that have opened bigger in the UK than Sing. Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) kicked off with £7.38m, which is bigger than Sing’s number if its previews are ignored. Up began with £6.41m, which is marginally ahead of the Sing three-day-weekend number. Frozen, the biggest hitter ever from Disney Animation, started out with a modest £4.70m. Warners’ The Lego Movie debuted with £8.05m including previews of £2.16m – smaller than Sing, whichever way you look at it.


The winner #2: T2 Trainspotting

While T2 Trainspotting was unlucky enough to be releasing in the same week as a major animation, its debut of £5.15m would typically be more than enough to top the UK box office. It’s hard to point to a sequel that has similarly scored with audiences after so long (almost 21 years). George Lucas’s first Star Wars prequel being the obvious flag bearer, although it was only 16 years between Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Phantom Menace (1999). And it’s rare that an 18-certificate film opens north of £5m. Ignoring previews, only three such titles have done so: Fifty Shades of Grey, Bruno and Hannibal.

T2 did particularly well in Scotland, earning 26% of its total gross there. (Last year, Scotland delivered 7.8% of the total UK and Ireland box office.) T2’s top 16 highest grossing cinemas were all in Scotland.

Comparisons with the original Trainspotting are hard to make, because Polygram opened that one with a platform release (in 57 venues), expanding thereafter. Eventual total was £12.4m. At that time (1996), the highest-grossing 18-certificate film was The Silence of the Lambs (1991), with £17.1m. Seven, released a few months after Trainspotting, reached £19.5m. Today, the top 18-certificate film is Fifty Shades of Grey, with £35.1m.

Given the huge anticipation for T2 Trainspotting, with nostalgic audiences rushing out to see it on opening weekend, steady box office erosion looks likely. On the other hand, an IMDb user rating of 8.1/10 suggests that audience word is currently very positive.

The Oscar contenders

With a relatively slim 29% decline from the previous session, La La Land has added another £3.11m to its tally, for a £20.95m total after 18 days. Among this year’s best picture Oscar nominees, its closest competitor is Arrival with £9.38m. La La Land should soon overtake the lifetime total of The Revenant (£23.4m), which was the big commercial winner in last year’s awards season.

The question now remains whether La La Land can match the monster totals of the top-performing best picture Oscar winners from the last decade. In January 2009, Slumdog Millionaire began with a modest £1.83m, rising 44% in its second weekend of play, and another 5% in its third. At that point, after three weekends, it had reached £14.22m, and it went on to achieve £31.66m. On the one hand, La La Land is far ahead of Slumdog after three weekends; on the other, it’s posted successive declines (23% and 29%), so does not look on course to match Slumdog’s incredible momentum.

In January 2011, The King’s Speech began with £3.30m, plus modest previews, rising 32% in its second frame, and declining just 4% in its third – for a 17-day total of £18.31m. Again, that number is behind La La Land’s tally, but The King’s Speech was showing stronger early momentum, and went on to a spectacular £45.7m. Few would expect La La Land to get to King’s Speech heights, but it shouldn’t break a sweat passing £30m and matching Slumdog’s tally.

Another best picture nominee, Lion, fell just 13% at the weekend, suggesting strong word of mouth for this inspiring tearjerker. Gross after 10 days is a rosy £3.31m. Hacksaw Ridge, another nominee, began with a strong £1.49m, including £219,000 in previews. Jackie, which has three Oscar nominations including best actress, fell just 16%, boosted by an expansion from 197 to 274 cinemas. Total after 10 days is £1.77m. Manchester by the Sea is now beginning to fade, but has reached £2.30m – by far Kenneth Lonergan’s biggest UK total as director.

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