The winner

Four years ago, the October half-term holiday was owned by Pixar's Up, which occupied the top spot for three straight weekends, and went on to clock up a hefty £34.6m. Sony animation Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs found its own niche in September that year, without the benefit of kids on holiday, but facing no direct competition for the family audience.

This half-term it's a different story for the sequel to Cloudy. The chief cinema attraction for families is DreamWorks Animation's Turbo, which released on October 18, with previews the weekend before. Sony evidently thought the competitive environment was less formidable this time around, mounting a bid to share the half-term spoils with Turbo rather than seek safe refuge at another time. The strategy has paid off: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 opened with £3.66m, including previews of £1.55m. That compares with a £1.58m debut for the original Cloudy in 2009.

Meatballs 2's opening salvo is very similar to the number achieved by Turbo the previous weekend (£3.89m, including £1.77m in previews), but by opening a week earlier Turbo has stolen a march on its rival and already clocked up £6.21m. Meatballs 2 is adrift by more than £2.5m but should steadily close the gap over the course of the school break. Also in the mix, incredibly: Despicable Me 2, back up to 13th place in its 18th week of release, with £47m to date.

The real winner

For the second week in a row, the film that grossed the most over the Friday-to-Sunday period was denied the top spot in the official chart. Declining a slim 19%, Captain Phillips generated the most box-office revenue over the weekend period, and has clocked up an impressive £7.91m in just 11 days.

Among Paul Greengrass films, only The Bourne Ultimatum has gotten off to a quicker start. The Bourne Supremacy (2004) stood at £6.14m after two weekends of play, on its way to a total of £11.56m. Sony will be hoping to push Captain Phillips past that level, and the film could enjoy a long tail if the expected awards nominations accrue.

The half-term alternatives

Kids of all ages are on holiday this week, and older teens are certainly in the market for the 15-certificate Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa. The Johnny Knoxville prankfest got off to a solid start, with £1.94m, including previews of £546,000. That compares with £1.7m for the debut of third entry in the franchise, Jackass 3D, back in November 2010. The first two films in the series were notably smaller: Jackass: The Movie opened with £574,000 in March 2003, and Jackass Number Two with £735,000 in November 2006. Assuming solid admissions from understimulated teens this week, Bad Grandpa should end the holiday with a strong number from UK cinemas, before going on to heroic feats on DVD.

Of particular appeal to tween and early teen boys, but also playing to a broad family audience and sci-fi fans, Ender's Game debuted with an acceptable £1.16m. The Orson Scott Card novel of the same name was first published in 1985, although it originated as a 1977 short story. The steadily selling property has reasonable brand value, but lacks the current cachet of more recently published young adult novels, so it was always difficult to predict how audiences would respond. A youthful protagonist – Asa Butterfield was 15 when the film was shot – makes it a tricky sell to older teens. The controversy over Card's illiberal views on gay marriage was an unhelpful distraction, although UK critics determinedly assessed the movie, not the man, and a Metascore of 59 reflects a consensus of 3/5 ratings. A pricey production budget of £69m suggests that the film faces a long road to profitability.

Also tricky to handicap was One Chance, recounting the underdog triumph of Carphone Warehouse employee Paul Potts, who won the first season of Britain's Got Talent in 2007. While the TV talent contest has broad, multi-generational family appeal, Potts is not exactly in the current limelight, and the BGT viewer doesn't necessarily correlate strongly with the cinema audience. Star James Corden looked set to provide a valuable commercial assist, although his primary appeal has been on television and stage. The outcome: £718,000 and fifth place. That number is similar to the recent debut of Sunshine on Leith (£770,000), a film that went on to achieve a solid run thanks to encouraging word of mouth, buoyed by strong results in Scotland. Wales, home of Potts, has a weaker track record of supporting local stories.

The art-house market

With Captain Phillips sucking in upscale viewers, and the likes of Prisoners and Blue Jasmine still chugging away, it's relatively thin pickings for more specialised releases. Among films playing on fewer than 100 screens, top title is Le Week-End, now past £1m after three weeks of play. Next is Enough Said, falling a reasonable 38% in its second week, but still not engaging the audiences suggested by the warm reviews, and with £371,000 to date. Top new release in the art-house market is The Selfish Giant, with a decent £81,700 from 35 cinemas, including £1,800 in previews. Distributor Artificial Eye reports a relatively strong performance in Leeds, Sheffield, Keighley and Hull for the Yorkshire-set tale, and especially in Bradford, where the National Media Museum cinema outgrossed the likes of Curzon Mayfair and Barbican in London.

Even with ecstatic reviews, contemporary social-realist tales can be a tough sell to audiences, especially if they are labeled "gritty" or, worse, "grim". For example, Andrea Arnold's justly admired and much-garlanded Fish Tank kicked off in 2009 with a surprisingly lowly £103,000 from 47 cinemas, including £3,700 from previews. The Selfish Giant director Clio Barnard's The Arbor, an innovative documentary hybrid, began life a year later with a disappointing £16,900 from 17 screens.

Perhaps for this reason, Artificial Eye opted to place The Selfish Giant simultaneously on several video on-demand platforms, including the new BFI Player and its own Curzon Home Cinema. That way, the film is available to the maximum audience at a time when consistently glowing reviews have most currency. The downside: the film can't play in any multiplex sites, because the four-month theatrical window the big chains demand has been broken. But The Selfish Giant was never likely to achieve significant bookings in those venues.

The flop

To nobody's great surprise, British legal thriller Closed Circuit failed to engage cinema audiences, landing in 28th place with a dismal £20,000 from 98 venues, for a £204 average. With a cast toplined by Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall, and a domestic-terrorism premise that sounded small screen in scope, the film fell into the gap between mainstream and art house. Director John Crowley's best work remains Boy A, starring Andrew Garfield, which won four TV Baftas in 2008. In cinemas, he's still best known for violent Dublin dark comedy Intermission (2003), starring Cillian Murphy. Closed Circuit is a rare commercial misstep for UK production powerhouse Working Title, currently riding high with Rush.

The future

With box office takings up 15% on the previous weekend, cinema owners had reason to be cheerful – just as long as they don't think about the equivalent frame from 2012, which saw the arrival of Skyfall. Takings are down 51% on that year-ago session. Box office was never going to match Skyfall – a film that went on to be the first ever to pass £100m in the UK – but current woes go deeper than that. Throughout October, successive weekends have seen takings drop 51%, 40%, 25% and now 51% against the 2012 equivalents – a consistent and disastrous shortfall. Cinema owners will be hoping that ground can be made up in November, which offers Thor: The Dark World, then huge US hit Gravity and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Joining Thor in cinemas this weekend are upscale crowd-pleaser Philomena, starring Judi Dench, and horror sequel The Haunting in Connecticut 2. Targeting more niche audiences: US indie flicks Drinking Buddies and Short Term 12, and winning Chilean character portrait Gloria, which scored a best actress award at the Berlin film festival for Paulina García.

Top 10 films

1. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, £3,658,618 from 510 sites (New)

2. Captain Phillips, £2,445,704 from 544 sites. Total: £7,905,991

3. Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, £1,940,476 from 372 sites (New)

4. Turbo, £1,323,885 from 547 sites. Total: £6,206,300

5. Ender's Game, £1,158,548 from 422 sites (New)

6. One Chance, £717,857 from 403 sites (New)

7. Escape Plan, £499,858 from 362 sites. Total: £2,002,988

8. Prisoners, £316,700 from 342 sites. Total: £6,804,208

9. Sunshine on Leith, £254,200 from 253 sites. Total: £3,865,774

10. Blue Jasmine, £212,747 from 177 sites. Total: £4,586,664

Other openers

The Selfish Giant, £81,737 (inc. £1,801 previews) from 35 sites

Reef 2: High Tide, £26,910 from 110 sites

Closed Circuit, £19,998 from 98 sites

Nosferatu, £11,240 (inc. £3,236 previews) from eight sites (rerelease)

Muscle Shoals, £8,150 from eight sites

It's a Lot, £4,159 from 24 sites

The Taste of Money, £1,296 from two sites

A Magnificent Haunting, £1,075 from two sites

Thanks to Rentrak


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Turbo boosts UK box office, but Captain Phillips really pushes the boat out

New commercial fare helped box office bounce back; Escape Plan proves Sly + Arnie still works but Enough Said not enough, writes Charles Gant

Charles Gant

23, Oct, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
Thor sequel hammers all opposition, while Philomena shows gentle class

Thor sequel posts biggest opening at UK cinemas since Despicable Me 2 in late June; Turbo and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 in a half-term animation score-draw

Charles Gant

06, Nov, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
The 88 movies we're most excited about in 2015
Think 2014 was a good year for film? Think again. This year is shaping up to be one of the classics. Here’s what’s on our radar

Guardian Film

06, Jan, 2015 @3:23 PM

Article image
Logan sinks claws into top spot at UK box office
Hugh Jackman’s third Wolverine adventure delivers the best opening for an X-Men movie as Lego Batman blocks the rise of Viceroy’s House

Charles Gant

07, Mar, 2017 @4:21 PM

Article image
Christopher Robin hugs top spot as BlacKkKlansman advances at UK box office
Shark tale The Meg and Mamma Mia! sequel hold on to higher placings as Idris Elba’s crime thriller Yardie fails to crack Top 10

Charles Gant

04, Sep, 2018 @12:45 PM

Article image
The Meg takes giant bite of UK box office
Jason Statham’s prehistoric shark makes waves with summer cinemagoers, while Mamma Mia! 2 is still packing them in

Charles Gant

15, Aug, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Bohemian Rhapsody champion of UK box office as A Star Is Born rocked off top spot
The biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury sweeps Lady Gaga aside while YA drama The Hate U Give wins a lot of love

Charles Gant

30, Oct, 2018 @1:11 PM

Article image
Star Wars battles Beauty and the Beast for year's top spot at UK box office
Jumanji reboot strengthens its position as The Greatest Showman sweeps in – and The Last Jedi edges towards top spot for 2017

Charles Gant

03, Jan, 2018 @7:00 AM

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – review

A sentient strawberry could be the breakout star of this passable sequel to the 2009 animation, writes Mike McCahill

Mike McCahill

24, Oct, 2013 @9:20 PM

Article image
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – review

The follow-up to the suprise animated hit of 2009 continues in an equally surreal way – but it's an acquired taste, writes Mark Kermode

Mark Kermode

26, Oct, 2013 @11:05 PM