The winner: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
No film opened at UK cinemas above £3.5m in January, but now the first of the year’s blockbusters has arrived: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The final film in the DreamWorks Animation trilogy kicked off with £5.32m from 556 venues.
The first film took £4.85m (including £2.12m in previews) in April 2010, while the second earned £7.78m (including £4.86m in previews) for the first week of wide release in July 2014. Final totals for the two films were £17.4m and £25.5m.
Because of DreamWorks Animation’s fluctuating distribution arrangements over the years, the three films have come out via different studios: Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Universal. The latter will be aiming to demonstrate that it can top the achievements of earlier partners.
The runner-up: Green Book
The latest best picture Oscar nominee to land is Green Book, starring Viggo Mortensen as a nightclub bouncer hired to drive an African American pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of the deep south in the pre-civil rights era. The film is a seeming crowdpleaser – it won the people’s choice award at the Toronto international film festival, for example – but the US box office has been underwhelming, with $56m (£43.1m) after 12 weeks of release.
Green Book arrives in UK cinemas that are already packed with awards-baiting titles including Mary Queen of Scots, Vice, Stan & Ollie and The Favourite, so distributor eOne should be happy with a debut of £1.23m (£1.67m including previews) and will be hoping to sustain it in the UK market through to the 24 February Oscars ceremony and beyond.
More awards-season competition arrived at the weekend with Can You Ever Forgive Me?, starring Oscar and Bafta nominees Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant. The true tale of a forger of literary letters has begun with an OK £416,000 from 256 cinemas (£518,000 including previews).
The weather factor
Widespread snow on Friday seemed to affect the box office, especially for films with an older audience skew. Green Book, Vice, Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Stan & Ollie all did substantially better on Sunday than two days earlier. Conversely, high-concept thriller Escape Room – which has earned comparisons with Final Destination and Saw – did better on Friday than Sunday. Genre titles traditionally play well to a younger Friday-night crowd. UK opening for Escape Room is £820,000 including previews. More might have been expected, since there’s not much else in the marketplace for this audience, unless you count M Night Shyamalan’s Glass.
Official data for January shows an alarming shortfall on 2018, with box office 18% down on a year ago. There was a confluence of factors: no big family film (a year ago we had Coco), no The Greatest Showman (which delivered more than £15m in January 2018), and the awards titles this time are not quite as commercially potent.
A year ago, a big Disney film (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and a big family film (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), both released in December, delivered a combined £30m in January. This time around, Mary Poppins Returns has added just shy of £20m since the end of December.
February has begun more encouragingly, with the first weekend down just 7% on the equivalent session from 2018. Hopes are now pinned on the James Cameron-produced Alita: Battle Angel arriving on Wednesday, and this weekend’s The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. More awards season titles arrive this week in the shape of All Is True (starring Kenneth Branagh as Shakespeare), If Beale Street Could Talk (from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins) and Boy Erased (starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton and Russell Crowe). The distributors of all three face tough challenges securing the best indie cinemas, which are already gridlocked with a range of more richly nominated titles. Winners in this Sunday’s Bafta film awards should get a boost next week.
Top 10 films, 1-3 February
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, £5,323,448 from 556 sites (new)
- Green Book, £1,672,562 from 557 sites (new)
- Glass, £944,735 from 511 sites. Total: £8,641,332 (three weeks)
- Escape Room, £820,218 from 373 sites (new)
- Mary Queen of Scots, £782,198 from 548 sites. Total: £6,623,402 (three weeks)
- Vice, £581,985 from 479 sites. Total: £2,528,464 (two weeks)
- Mary Poppins Returns, £530,842 from 581 sites. Total: £42,941,029 (seven weeks)
- Can You Ever Forgive Me?, £518,230 from 256 sites (new)
- Stan & Ollie, £413,289 from 542 sites. Total: £9,270,294 (four weeks)
- The Favourite, £410,001 from 458 sites. Total: £14,019,668 (five weeks)