The Summer Box Office: The UK market bucks the trend

Headlines this week have claimed a decline in cinema takings following a summer of lacklustre performances by many of the Hollywood blockbusters. The same is not the case in the UK argues Digital Cinema Media’s head of film, Tom Linay. 

 

With the summer having drawn to a close just a few days ago, this week has seen a number of articles in the press assessing the box office performance of films released in the summer months and how it compares to previous years. The chat has particularly focussed on the US, where the box office was down year-on-year but when we focus on the UK, it’s a slightly different story.

A lot of talk has zeroed in on the fact that no film in the US has crossed the $300m mark, the new benchmark for summer blockbusters. As a rule of thumb, the UK box office figure is often 10 per cent of the US figure, so the $300m mark is the equivalent of £30m in the UK. When we look at specific titles, it’s clear that the UK is doing just fine.

The summer’s most critically acclaimed blockbuster, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has so far grossed $205m in the US and is winding down. In the UK, it has so far taken a huge £32m and is still going. That’s bigger than any non-family film from summer 2013. Just behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and the second biggest film of the summer is a uniquely British creation, The Inbetweeners 2. It’s already up to £31.6m and has the legs to overtake, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The US had no equivalent title this year and was crying out for a blockbuster comedy of this nature.

Other titles that have outstripped their US performance include the summer’s big family title, How To Train Your Dragon 2 (£23.6m / $174m), X-Men: Days of Future Past (£27.1m / $233m) and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (£24.1m / $203m). The US market’s biggest success story is Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s performing equally as impressively here in the UK.

While certain films like Transformers: Age of Extinction and Edge of Tomorrow may have disappointed slightly, releases like Lucy, Mrs.Brown’s Boys and the aforementioned blockbusters have exceeded expectations.  Lucy is a great example of a film that seemingly filled the void left by the big blockbusters this summer and replaced it with a more niche film that gripped cinemagoers attention. Big popcorn movies have been joined by diversity and less mainstream titles.

Summer 2014 can’t be analysed without factoring in the World Cup, not just in terms of the impact that tournament has on people’s behaviour but also in how it affected the behaviour of distributors. Distributors did schedule quite cleverly around the World Cup in July and there weren’t too many blockbusters in that month, while August and September look strong. The rest of the year sees the release of much anticipated films such as David Fincher’s production of the hugely successful novel, Gone Girl, the latest in the successful Hunger Games series, Mockingjay Part 1, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which has contributed to a record breaking August in the US.  There’s also the final film in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy.

The moral of this story is don’t believe all you read – there are plenty of reasons for optimism for UK cinema for the rest of 2014 and 2015 has the potential to be the biggest year ever.

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