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Sunny skies are a downer for UK box office

After a blockbusting Easter weekend, the UK box office came down to earth with a thump, although Kick-Ass and I Am Love had reasons to celebrate
by Charles Gant, published on Tuesday, April 13, 2010 - 11.14 BST

The comedown
Over the Easter weekend, cinemas bathed in a cascade of cash, as audiences flocked to see a range of films, from Nanny McPhee to Kick-Ass. Seven days later it's a different story, as sunny skies plus a notable lack of strong commercial new titles combined to see box office collapse by more than half. While the 2-4 April period saw the market post its second best weekend of the past 12 months, 9-11 April ranks as only the 41st best out of 52. Families who visited the multiplexes over Easter weekend seem not to have had the appetite for a repeat visit.

The star performer
Despite dropping by 36% from the previous weekend, Kick-Ass finds itself in the surprising position of being the gentlest faller on the chart. Matthew Vaughn's violent, profane comicbook adaptation was once again beaten by Clash of the Titans and How to Train Your Dragon, but won the contest for greatest market traction. Of course, since the film's audience is more likely to be attending late evening screenings, the sunshine would have posed less of a problem for the 15-certificate picture. Vaughn and backers Universal will nevertheless be hoping that the figures indicate relatively strong word-of-mouth on a film that is certainly offering cinemagoers a distinctive experience.

The 3D battle
How to Train Your Dragon and Clash of the Titans continue their head-to-head battle at the country's 3D cinemas. While the films got off to a strong start at Easter, the competitive dating scenario now seems to be taking its toll on both pictures. Whether a cinema has just one or multiple 3D screens, the showtimes available to either film are fewer than the number that were enjoyed by recent hits such as Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, which enjoyed clear runs on their own. A big drop might have been expected for Clash of the Titans – an action event picture that didn't find much favour with critics – but that's not so much the case for the well-reviewed animation How to Train Your Dragon. In the event, the pictures fell 57% and 48% respectively. After two weekends – and in fact after 14 days of play, given its preview strategy – Dragon has grossed just shy of £10m. This compares with £11.5m after two weekends for Monsters Vs Aliens last Easter.

The bellyflops
Two relatively wide new releases stumbled at the starting gate. Shelter, a badly reviewed genre flick starring Julianne Moore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, never looked like a strong commercial package, although an average debut of just £799 from each of its 177 screens will presumably be at the lower end of its distributor's hopes. The real disappointment is Whip It, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, starring Juno's Ellen Page as a misfit teen who finds her niche in the all-girl roller-derby scene in Austin, Texas. Lionsgate backed it with a committed marketing campaign, reviews were strong, and the film seemed well-placed, with little direct competition specifically targeting young females. But romantic drama Remember Me, starring Twilight idol Robert Pattinson, is winning the war: it has taken £2.64m after 10 days, compared with Whip It's £353,000 after five days. Without its Wednesday/Thursday previews, Whip It's figure stands at £266,000.

The arthouse hit
Among big falls and weak starts, one film stood out: Italian arthouse drama I Am Love, starring Tilda Swinton. Boosted by mostly rave reviews – Peter Bradshaw's three-star effort in the Guardian was among the less-effusive ­– Luca Guadagnino's oddly gripping tale of an industrialist's wife's affair with a young chef took £172,000 from 35 screens, including a small amount of previews, for an average of £4,913. The result is almost identical to the debut of £171,000 from 39 screens for the last notable Italian hit, Gomorrah, in October 2008. With no other major arthouse title arriving as competition, and the result achieved in the face of warm weather that dampened grosses across the market, local distributor Metrodome will be hoping for a strong hold this coming weekend. Either way, the strong start is timely comfort for a company whose recent release of Uma Thurman comedy Motherhood turned into a PR nightmare. Meanwhile, independent British comedy The Infidel also did well from its 29 screens, although the Omid Djalili vehicle's opening gross of £135,000 is boosted by £37,000 from a big public premiere that included live entertainment.

The future
Despite the disappointing weekend, the year so far has been robust for box office overall, and cinema owners will be hoping that 9-11 April will prove a blip on a rising curve. They will be looking with optimism to the arrival this Wednesday of romantic drama Dear John, adapted from a book by The Notebook author Nicholas Sparks, starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried. Other sectors of the market are served by body-parts thriller Repo Men, with Jude Law; Roman Polanski's upscale conspiracy drama The Ghost, starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan; and Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's likable 1970s-set Brit flick Cemetery Junction. Predicting how that lot will open is a challenge this column is happy to duck.

UK top 10, 9-11 April
1. Clash of the Titans, £2,441,682 from 468 sites. Total: £12,656,035
2. How to Train Your Dragon, £1,399,017 from 478 sites. Total: £9,782,793
3. Kick-Ass, £1,191,069 from 405 sites. Total: £7,001,080
4. Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, £1,180,193 from 529 sites. Total: £11,906,088
5. Alice in Wonderland, £676,516 from 458 sites. Total: £40,083,901
6. The Blind Side, £538,730 from 368 sites. Total: £4,903,322
7. Remember Me, £521,757 from 364 sites. Total: £2,639,885
8. Whip It, £353,041 from 315 sites (New)
9. Shutter Island, £336,725 from 315 sites. Total: £10,038,604
10. The Bounty Hunter, £222,664 from 291 sites. Total: £5,851,965

How the other openers did
I Am Love, 35 screens, £163,711 + £8,248 previews
Shelter, 177 screens, £141,452
The Infidel, 29 screens, £92,848 + £42,600 previews
Prince: It's Showtime, 45 screens, £68,277
No Greater Love, 3 screens, £2,444
I Know You Know, 1 screen, £240 + £590

Source: www.guardian.co.uk