Dunkirk outguns blockbuster competition at UK box office

The winner: Dunkirk

While summer is traditionally a strong season for multiplex cinemas, it can prove a tough challenge for venues trying to offer an alternative to Hollywood blockbusters, since the most commercially potent arthouse fare tends to cluster into autumn and winter for awards season. Which means the arrival of Dunkirk was greeted by the indie-cinema bookers with a combination of relief and joy: an intelligent mainstream film they could programme without fear of embarrassment, and with appeal that cuts across the demographics.

As for the film’s subject, the second world war has been commercially unproven in recent years, and Churchill, released in June, was a box-office fizzle. On the other hand, it had the advantage of novelty: cinemagoers can hardly complain about a surfeit of films on the conflict.

In the UK, Dunkirk has opened at the top end of any reasonable expectations with a very robust £10.02m from a whopping 638 cinemas. That cinema count is higher than for the opening frames of current summer blockbusters such as War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3 and Wonder Woman. In other words, like the popular Dutch beer, Dunkirk has refreshed the parts that other films cannot reach, playing across the multiplexes and boutique cinema chains (Picturehouse, Everyman, Curzon), and also at key indie cinemas that traditionally don’t play Hollywood blockbusters: Edinburgh Filmhouse, Glasgow Film Theatre, Manchester Home and so on.

Warners reports that Dunkirk scored £1.33m of its gross in Imax venues. There is also news that it has done well in venues offering projection in 35mm and 70mm – Picturehouse, for example, achieved greater seat occupancy for its celluloid presentations. Dunkirk has achieved the fourth biggest UK opening of 2017, behind Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Despicable Me 3. (Fast and Furious 8 was also seemingly bigger, but its debut number was boosted by significant previews.)

Despicable Me 3 cracks £30m

Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 3 crossed the £30m barrier on Sunday: only the fourth film to do so this year, following La La Land, Beauty and the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2. The animation fell just 20% from the previous frame, once again enjoying the gentlest decline of any film in the top 10. Weekend box office of £3.08m was nearly double the amount achieved by rival Cars 3 (£1.64m). Despicable Me 3 is the only film this year to manage four straight weeks at the UK box office with £3m-plus – a feat that eluded even Beauty and the Beast. The last title to manage it was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

With state schools only just breaking up for the summer holidays, Despicable Me 3 should bump along in cinemas for the next six weeks, chasing the target set two years ago by Minions (£47.8m). Fresh animated competition for Despicable Me 3 arrived in cinemas on 24 July: the well-reviewed Captain Underpants. The Emoji Movie follows on 4 August.

André Rieu scoops annual windfall

While Dunkirk certainly pulled in older cinemagoers, its demographic profile looks positively youthful compared to the audience for André Rieu’s annual Maastricht concert. This year, the Dutch violinist and conductor grossed £1.44m for his show, which was screened in cinemas on Saturday and Sunday. That’s marginally up on the £1.41m grossed by his 2016 Maastricht concert. On that occasion, exactly one year ago, Rieu faced off against The BFG and Star Trek Beyond. He may have done even better this year had he not lost a portion of his audience to Dunkirk.

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