UK Box Office

The winner: Beauty and the Beast

The start of the UK’s Easter school holidays saw the arrival on Friday of Smurfs: The Lost Village, plus preview screenings on Saturday and Sunday of The Boss Baby. However, Beauty and the Beast (starring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as Beast) shrugged off those challengers, easily holding on to the UK top spot with third-weekend takings of £6.75m, and a 17-day total of £51.4m. That’s enough to put the Disney flick in 25th place in the all-time UK box office rankings, ahead of the lifetime totals of films such as Quantum of Solace (£51.1m) and The Dark Knight (£48.9m).

The top-grossing family film in the UK remains 2010’s Toy Story 3, which had reached £51.53m after its third weekend of release, but benefited in the first place from some hefty previews, so the comparison is not wholly valid. The PG-rated Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the next biggest family film in the all-time rankings, and it had reached a weaker £38.13m after three weekends of play – ticket prices were notably cheaper in 2001, of course. Beauty and the Beast still has two weeks of the Easter holiday ahead of it, so it should shoot a lot higher up the all-time UK box office rankings, probably overtaking Toy Story 3’s £73.8m.

The disappointment #1: Ghost in the Shell

There has long been speculation about a live-action film version of Masamune Shirow manga Ghost in the Shell, which was memorably made into an anime film in 1995. DreamWorks acquired the rights and started developing a screenplay in 2008. In other words, it’s been a long journey, building huge anticipation among fans of the source material. The UK outcome, then, must be seen as a letdown: £1.95m at the weekend plus £354,000 on Thursday for a four-day opening of £2.30m. That’s by no means a flop, but it’s disappointing for this particular property, especially given a production price-tag of $110m, and a cast led by Scarlett Johansson.

Sunny weather for much of the weekend didn’t help – UK cinemas traditionally struggle to compete with spring sunshine. In July 2014, Johansson starred in action sci-fi Lucy – a film that didn’t have the benefit of an existing fanbase for the property. The Luc Besson title kicked off with a more muscular £3.08m, on its way to a final tally of £14.3m. The budget for Lucy was reported at $40m.

The disappointment #2: Free Fire

While distributor StudioCanal will also point to the weather as a factor in the disappointing opening of Free Fire, the weak numbers can’t be fully blamed on the sunshine. Ben Wheatley’s latest has begun with £319,000 from 334 cinemas, with previews taking that total up to £481,000. For context, Wheatley’s last film, High-Rise, began just over a year ago with £439,000 from a more focused 153 cinemas, with previews taking the opening tally to £543,000. High-Rise benefited from familiar source material (the JG Ballard novel), and a starry cast including Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss.

However, Free Fire offers a nice ensemble including Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley and Jack Reynor, as well as a clear genre sell. And StudioCanal released Free Fire into double the cinemas selected for the launch of High-Rise, which should speak for itself regarding the anticipated commercial outcome. High-Rise eventually found its way to £1.97m – a target that now looks an unlikely prospect for Free Fire.

The wipeout: Man Down

Signature’s theatrical distribution of Shia LaBeouf war movie Man Down may be fairly termed token – it opened on Friday in just one venue, concurrent with release on digital platforms. However, even by the standards of a token cinema release, the box office is disappointing: data gatherer comScore reported a weekend gross of just £7. LaBeouf stars as a US marine suffering from PTSD following assignments in the Afghan war. The actor re-teams with his A Guide to Recognising Your Saints director Dito Montiel, with a cast also including Gary Oldman, Jai Courtney and Kate Mara. Man Down played only at the Reel Cinema in Burnley – a release that was presumably geared to generating reviews rather than servicing Lancashire’s legion of LaBeouf fans. The film follows on to DVD and Blu-ray next month.

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