On we move, to yet another look at how Hollywood product is set to fare here in good old Blighty. It feels like just five weeks ago that I last made a set of predictions, but it was actually more like six. How time flies!
Last time around, I fared reasonably well with my predictions. Let’s see if I kept up that track record with the most recent batch:
Well, not really. My big mistake this month was to underestimate the ranges of openings: while the low-end titles opened around £90k, and the highest at £8.5m, I’d opted for a £200k/£6m range. When you follow the world of film as much as I do, it’s easy to be blinded into the idea that people have equal awareness of every film on release, but of course they simply do not.
The big surprise here has to be the great result for Bad Grandpa. It’s well on course to become easily the highest-grossing Jackass film in the UK; for whatever reason, I didn’t anticipate that. Awareness seemed to grow considerably in the two or three weeks pre-release, after my predictions, but excuses aside, it was still something of a shock overperformance to me.
Among other misses, Thor looks to be set for a far stronger turnout than its predecessor; Blue Jasmine did phenomenally, and still is, way ahead of Midnight in Paris numbers and garnering a far wider release, too; indies Girl Most Likely and Thanks for Sharing had serious difficulty garnering mainstream attention; Escape Plan turned out to not be all that much of an event; and The Fifth Estate utterly bombed, considering the exhaustive marketing.
It wasn’t all bad news, though. Captain Phillips is doing roughly in line with my expectations, that is to say rather well; the kid-flick-twinpack of Turbo and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 have also delivered along the lines of my predictions. Long legs for Prisoners and Baggage Claim, meanwhile, have seen weaker-than-I’d-expected opening weekends go on to live up to my total gross predictions; the opposite went for Machete Kills and Ender’s Game, where fine opening weekend dropped off very rapidly.
Onwards and upwards. Six more weeks of UK box office are waiting to be predicted.
This coming weekend, the 8th of November, sees just one major release. But it’s a big one: Gravity, finally hitting UK cinemas a month after its US debut. A couple of months back, the 8th November was a relatively crowded weekend, but one by one, pretenders to Gravity’s throne have given up in pain – the biggest casualty, Last Vegas, has had its UK release bumped to 2014 – and with no major indies even attempting to release the same weekend, it seems arthouses and plexes alike will be dominated by the title. Buzz is through the roof, both online and in the UK press; trailers have been saturating the country’s cinemas for months. Britons are aware of this film, and they’re aware that it’s good. It’s going to open big. I’m going for an outpacing-the-US opening of £7m, and a £25m total.
By contrast, the weekend of 15th November is utterly stacked. The Butler, The Counsellor, Don Jon, and Battle of the Year all get released, and with Gravity likely to still be pulling in the masses, they can’t all be winners.
The Butler looks like the safest bet. Riding positive word-of-mouth and mainstream media attention, it should appeal to the middle classes who enjoy awards contenders over both blockbusters and arthouse fare, in the way so many major UK titles do (Marigold Hotel, King’s Speech). In the minus column, The Help wasn’t a massive hit here, and this is comparable in target audience, but I’d still peg it as the strongest of the openers, and a £1.25m opening, £5m total seems doable, despite the shadow of Gravity looming large.
The Counsellor has done poorly in the USA, and I can’t see it doing great shakes here either. £600k opening, £2m total looks realistic to me. Don Jon is the great unknown; it’s had good reviews and been marketed a lot, but it’s 18-rated and the porn-focused subject matter is a tad niche. I’ll probably err on the side of the caution with an OK £500k opening, £1.5m total.
Limited release Battle of the Year looks like the bonafide bomb of the bunch, not getting a wide release, despite going nationwide in the USA. There’s no evidence of demand for this distinctly American take on the dance movie, and an opening weekend of more than £100,000 would be surprising; site average is bound to be sub-£1000. Total will unquestionably be below £250k.
A couple of relatively low-key UK titles also look set to get lost in the shuffle: Dom Hemingway, a black comedy starring Jude Law, and thriller In Fear will be battling for multiplex screens and audiences; I suspect they’ll be losing out to Hollywood product by miles, though they should at least beat Battle of the Year.
The weekend of November 22nd looks pretty set to be dominated by one movie – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, sequel to the extremely popular The Hunger Games. That topped out with £23.7m following an excellent £4.9m opening; the anticipation is greater this time and the opening weekend, at least, looks set to easily outstrip that of its predecessor. Awareness is high, the fans are greater in number than ever – the books sold two million copies in the UK in 2012 alone – and all is set for a massive, overwhelming performance. I’m guessing a £9.5m opening, £28m total is on the cards here.
The other openers this weekend are destined for also-ran status. Parkland, despite bombing in the US and featuring overwhelmingly American subject matter, gets a saturation UK release; it will certainly fall through the cracks, and I can’t see its opening weekend topping £200k, for a total around £400k. Luc Besson’s The Family should do a little better, thanks to the star power of Robert DeNiro, though it’s very likely to underperform vs the US; its domestic take of $36m suggests a £3.6m UK total, but I’m thinking more like a £450k opening, £1.25m total.
The 29th November sees a diverse back of studio product arriving. Carrie finally makes its way to UK shores; missing Halloween really strikes me as a mistake, especially as there was almost no horror product in UK cinemas around the time. I expect it to perform roughly in line with most of the year’s high-awareness horror titles, and a £1.5m opening/£5m total seems reachable at this stage, for an audience relatively starved of the genre.
Free Birds also opens this weekend. Usually, US animated flicks are a slam-dunk at the UK box office, Seuss aside, but Thanksgiving isn’t too marketable here for obvious reasons, and US numbers have been very weak indeed. It does have the benefit of a uncrowded marketplace, Cloudy 2 and Turbo both having been on release for well over a month by this stage, but there’s no school holiday to tie it in with either. I’ll say a £1.5m opening, £6m total is do-able – roughly in line with the US.
The great unknown of the weekend is UK/US co-production Saving Mr Banks, one of the year’s major awards contenders. The plot – P.L. Travers meets with Walt Disney during their production of her Mary Poppins – should connect well with UK audiences, an exhaustive preview screening and promotion schedule has been underway, and awards season buzz should propel its long legs right up into the new year. A solid £2.5m opening looks right, and an excellent £14m total seems achievable.
The Best Man Holiday also opens “wide” here this weekend, but it’s unlikely to get past £500,000 total.
The 6th of December sees one of the busiest lineups of the year, and in my opinion it’s likely that one title might be held back – it’s going to be a bloodbath otherwise. Still, as it is, we have six major US titles competing for audiences on that date.
Frozen is by far the weekend’s safest bet. Solid early buzz helps, but what really matters is that Frozen is a Disney movie, likely to appeal to both boys and girls, seasonally appropriate, and facing little holiday season competition. The absence of the usual US-UK delay will only assist things. Tangled opened to £5.1m on its way to £20.5m, while Wreck-It Ralph did £4.5m OW, £24.3m total. Matching those figures seems very likely. £4.5m OW, £25m total.
Adults face a surfeit of options this weekend, by comparison to families. Homefront, the Jason Statham/James Franco team-up action flick, looks best placed to perform well: Statham remains marketable here, and good reviews plus the presence of Franco should draw some middlebrow crowds to. A fine £1.5m opening, £5.5m total seems doable.
Getaway, the Ethan Hawke thriller that bombed in the US with just $10m total back in September, is direct competition to Homefront, and seems likely to lose that battle. Even assuming a saturation release, £300k opening and £750k total sounds right to me; I can’t see the Christmas setting providing much assistance.
Arthouse audiences have a couple of options this weekend, too. Nebraska, which is going straight to saturation release here, seems likely to prove the most tempting; I can’t foresee strong natiowide performance, given the unusual tone of the picture – and the fact it’s black and white – but I can see it holding on in arthouses for a long, long run. £1m opening weekend, £5m total. Those looking for something a little darker may find solace in Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy, though success here may depend on how many multiplexes can find room for it. I can’t personally see it brraking out, and I think it’ll do around £250k opening, £1m total (assuming 100 sites) and £500k opening, £1.5m total (assuming 300 sites).
And finally, there’s Black Nativity, which will likely only be placed in areas of the UK with a considerable black population. It should manage solid screen averages, but its total gross is inherently limited; these urban ensemble movies with African-American casts rarely make it past £500k here, which seems to me to be Black Nativity’s upper total limit.
After the busy weekend prior, the 13th of December sees only one major cinema release, but it’s a doozy: The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. The first in the trilogy did very good numbers last festive season, racking up an £11.6m opening on its way to £51.7m, and winding up the year’s fourth-highest-grossing release. Can the sequel live up to its predecessor? In my opinion, probably not quite, unless outstanding reviews come along for the ride. Last year’s was a mild disappointment to many, the HFR wasn’t much of a sell either; naturally there’s still a massive built-in fanbase but I think we’ll see a slight dip this time around. I’m guessing a £11m opening, £42m total is about right.
The only other wide US release is The Christmas Candle, a Christian Christmas movie, of the type that don’t usually earn a UK theatrical release. Its grosses will almost certainly be negligible, sub-£250k total.
And that’s all for now. I’ll be checking in again before Christmas, as the awards season contenders get underway, with some guesses as to how America’s prestige pictures are going to fare here.
More from the week that was is taking the week off, but it’ll be back soon.