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.
Wealth is spread more widely
For the first time since February, the box office chart showed six titles earning more than £1m at the weekend: Dunkirk, Despicable Me 3, War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming (cracking £20m), Cars 3 and André Rieu. The strength in depth helped power the market overall to a 15% rise on the previous frame, as well as an even better 26% rise on the equivalent session from 2016, which was led by The BFG. The weekend overall was the sixth best from the past 52 sessions.
Admissions numbers, which lag behind box office in the reporting calendar, are now in for June, and they show a disappointing 10% fewer tickets sold than in June 2016. However, because 2017 started so strongly for cinema, the first six months of 2017 are 6.4% up on the same period in 2016 for admissions. So far, box office for July has been well up on July 2016, and the month should also show an admissions rise from a year ago when those numbers are finally audited.
Top 10 films, 21-23 July
1. Dunkirk, £10,023,720 from 638 sites (new)
2. Despicable Me 3, £3,082,983 from 645 sites. Total: £30,319,469 (three weeks)
3. War for the Planet of the Apes, £2,714,119 from 612 sites. Total: £12,667,484 (two weeks)
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming, £2,183,542 from 565 sites. Total: £21,072,253 (three weeks)
5. Cars 3, £1,636,488 from 581 sites. Total: £5,072,811 (two weeks)
6. André Rieu’s 2017 Maastricht Concert, £1,439,604 from 546 sites (new)
7. Baby Driver, £686,111 from 472 sites. Total: £10,080,214 (four weeks)
8. The Beguiled, £140,861 from 216 sites. Total: £853,566 (two weeks)
9. The Black Prince, £81,451 from 34 sites (new)
10. Wonder Woman, £77,375 from 104 sites. Total: £21,929,201 (eight weeks)
Munna Michael, £43,036 from 53 sites
Monster Island, £15,056 from 91 sites
City of Ghosts, £13,021 from 14 sites
Vikram Vedha, £10,562 from three sites
Scribe, £9,768 from five sites
Sperm Whale: Roya’s Selection, £8,204 from 11 sites
Victim, £4,888 from five sites (reissue)
Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum, £4,103 from five sites
Shot! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock, £2,414 from two sites
Meow, £118 from one site