UK Box Office

Alan Partridge Alpha Papa

Just £100,000 separates the three films battling for the top spot in the weekend chart, with Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa edging out the competition to claim bragging rights. Literal bragging on this occasion, with distributor StudioCanal releasing the following statement from the North Norfolk Digital DJ: “Now is not a time for gloating or celebration, more a time for healing old wounds, a time to say: ‘Let us join together in thanks that I am No 1 at the box office.’ Hallelujah.”

The comedy took £2.18m including £744,000 in Wednesday/Thursday previews, just ahead of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, with £2.14m including £861,000 in previews. However, it’s the third-placed title – Grown Ups 2 – that won the battle over the Friday-to-Sunday weekend period, with £2.08m, including just £421,000 in previews.

Alpha Papa signals a return to commercial potency for star Steve Coogan, who was unable to propel Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love to much box office success. The Paul Raymond biopic debuted in April with £209,000 from 140 cinemas, ending up with a weak lifetime total of £465,000. Before Alpha Papa, Coogan’s biggest openings for a leading role were 2004’s Around the World in 80 Days (£1.63m) and 2001’s The Parole Officer (£902,000).

The Sea of Monsters number compares to a £1.50m debut for Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief back in February 2010. Original Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups kicked off with £2.01m, including £528,000 in previews, in August 2010.

The level playing field

For the second weekend in a row, a mighty seven films – see chart below – have all achieved weekend takings of £1m-plus. While that’s pretty remarkable, more noteworthy is the even greater breadth of the current market, with an additional four films achieving £900,000-plus. That means that Despicable Me 2 finds itself without a place in the top 10, despite earning a nifty £922,000 over the weekend. This must surely be the biggest-ever weekend takings for a film outside the UK top 10. For comparison, as recently as two weeks ago, Man of Steel propped up the chart with weekend takings of just £78,000. Back in June 2012, Ice Age: Continental Drift earned top place with takings of £853,000 – less than the past weekend’s Despicable Me 2 figure.

Despite inflation from its previews, chart-topper Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa earned just 2.3 times the total of 10th-placed Chennai Express. It’s highly likely that this is the least polarised top 10 for many years – possibly ever. Notable frames from recent years exhibiting strong polarisation are ones where big blockbusters opened. For example, back in July 2011, when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 arrived, the top title grossed 396 times the 10th-placed film. A year later, The Dark Knight Rises, in its debut frame, earned 375 times the picture in 10th place.

Among holdover titles in the middle of the table, a merit badge is accorded to fourth-placed The Conjuring, the gentlest fall with a drop from the previous weekend of just 25%. Monsters University‘s decline is a similarly modest 32%, and the film is now nudging £24m. That’s enough to put it past, for example, all the Madagascar movies and several Pixar flicks, including Wall-E, Brave and both Cars. The summer holiday is working to Monsters’ advantage, with an uplift of £3.16m over the past seven days.

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