Jurassic World success drives monster audiences before Spectre and Star Wars

The year began with pundits predicting record-breaking numbers for a trio of blockbusters – Avengers: Age of Ultron, Spectre and Star Wars – one of which the returning dinosaurs have already squashed

The winner: Jurassic World

After a fairly disappointing year at the box office last year, industry commentators promised 2015 would be a lot better, thanks to the presence of three surefire blockbusters: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Spectre. All of these looked likely contenders for $1bn (£650m) global.

There were plenty of people, too, who had high commercial hopes for Jurassic World, pointing to Guardians of the Galaxy’s Chris Pratt toplining a much loved franchise revival that could play to kids and the grown-ups who remembered the original film. Others focused more on the long delay since 2001’s Jurassic Park III, that film’s rather lowly reputation with audiences, and the fact that the novelty of CGI creatures on screen has diminished.

The film team review Jurassic World

However, everybody failed to predict just how gigantic Jurassic World would turn out to be. In the UK, it has begun with £16.84m, plus £2.51m in Thursday previews. That compares with £14.42m plus £3.60m for Avengers: Age of Ultron – previously the biggest debut of 2015. Even if the previews are combined, Jurassic beats Ultron, (£19.35m against £18.02m). In other words, a risky revival of a declining franchise has beaten a sure-thing sequel to Marvel’s biggest hit. (The earlier Avengers Assemble grossed £51.9m in the UK.)

What happens next remains to be seen, but Age of Ultron proved rather front-loaded because Avengers fans rushed out to see it on opening weekend, and numbers quickly dwindled. Jurassic World similarly boasts a see-it first factor, but probably not such an intense one. The appeal feels broader – unlike Ultron, you don’t need to be already invested in the world to engage with the film. And the fact that Tomorrowland: A World Beyond fell harder (down 61%) than any other film in the top 10 suggests that Jurassic World is pulling in the family audience.

The success of Jurassic World brings yet more cheer to distributor Universal, which has already performed better this year than many expected, with Fifty Shades of Grey (£35.0m), Fast & Furious 7 (£38.5m) and Pitch Perfect 2 (£16.8m). In 2014, the studio’s biggest hits here were The Wolf of Wall Street (£22.7m) and Bad Neighbours (£16.0m). Next up for Universal are Minions and Ted 2. With Fifty Shades of Grey, Fast & Furious 7 and now Jurassic World, Universal is the first UK distributor to deliver three £10m-plus openings in the same year.

Jurassic World’s three-day debut is the fourth biggest ever in the UK, behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (£23.67m), Skyfall (£20.22m) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (£18.31m). Including previews, it’s the fifth biggest debut, but that’s a less meaningful comparison because the number of preview days can vary wildly.

Jurassic World helped the UK weekend box office overall to its best result since November 2012, when the market was led by the final Twilight film and Skyfall.

The chasing pack

The film team review Spy

Despite Indominus Rex and pals stomping their way into the nation’s multiplexes, the rest of the field held up reasonably well. Weather may be a factor: it was less sunny than it had been the previous weekend. Among wide releases, the strongest hold in the top 10 was delivered by Spy (down 34%), a film that offered a clear alternative to summer action blockbusters. Pitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road switched places again, with victory going to the Barden Bellas this time. But a stronger performance on weekdays last week sees Fury Road narrow the gap overall, and the road warriors are now just £317,000 behind Pitch Perfect 2.

The film event: Secret Cinema

Play time ... Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back
Play time ... Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back. Photograph: Paul J Cochrane/Secret Cinema

The second week of play for Secret Cinema’s presentation of The Empire Strikes Back sees the event add another £362,000, for a 10-day total of £666,000. This time, Secret Cinema has a run of 100 play dates, so the event could be on course for a total gross of £6.7m. Word of mouth will play a big factor in sustaining bookings throughout the epic run. Ticket sales may benefit from the start of the school summer holiday in mid-July, bringing a bigger family audience into play on weekdays.

Last year, Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future ran for only 20 dates, spread out over five weeks but at a bigger-capacity venue, grossing £3.37m. Running costs will be higher this time around, with performers and a huge technical team employed for the 17-week run. Over the three-day weekend, takings of £262,000 for The Empire Strikes Back are 5% up on the same period for the opening session, which augurs well.

The live event: La Bohème

Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja in the Royal Opera House's production of La Bohème
Beautifully impulsive … Anna Netrebko and Joseph Calleja in the Royal Opera House’s production of La Bohème. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

For fans of high culture, the big cinema event last week was the Royal Opera House’s performance of La Bohème, transmitted to arthouse cinemas and upscale multiplexes last Wednesday. A few encore screenings at the weekend boost the tally to a nifty £600,000 so far.

The arthouse alternatives

The film team review London Road

Landing in the top 10 a place behind Secret Cinema is London Road, adapted from the innovative National Theatre stage musical. The opening gross is buoyed by a special event last Tuesday at the Brixton Ritzy, which was beamed to 270 cinemas. Director Rufus Norris, playwright/screenwriter Alecky Blythe and actress Anita Dobson all participated. London Road played at a more modest 37 cinemas for its regular release. Total gross is £216,000 so far.

The Look of Silence – Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary follow-up to Bafta winner The Act of Killing – also took the event route, beamed on Sunday from the new Picturehouse Central in London to 91 cinemas, with a Q&A hosted by Louis Theroux. For the regular release, Look of Silence is playing in 29 cinemas. Total so far is £53,000

The future

the Entourage posse
Hello boys ... the Entourage posse. Photograph: Everett/Rex Shutterstock

Thanks to the arrival of Jurassic World, takings are an impressive 166% up on the previous weekend, and a stellar 240% up on the equivalent frame from 2014, when the start of World Cup football saw a very weak field of new releases. For the previous three weekends, box-office has been down on the year-ago equivalent sessions, but this trend has now been spectacularly reversed, and should continue in this direction for a while. Having said that, UK distributors are giving Jurassic World some breathing room, with the coming weekend seeing the arrival of relatively middling contenders Entourage, Nicholas Sparks adaptation The Longest Ride, and Ian McKellen as a retired Sherlock Holmes in Mr Holmes. Event cinema presentations include Julie Taymor’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (pre-filmed) and Take That Live from the O2.

UK top 10, 12-14 June

1. Jurassic World, £19,350,727 from 605 sites (new)

2. Spy, £1,549,756 from 532 sites. Total: £5,549,333

3. San Andreas, £844,397 from 478 sites. Total: £9,915,841

4. Insidious: Chapter 3, £692,560 from 432 sites. Total: £2,836,965

5. Pitch Perfect 2, £411,269 from 475 sites. Total: £16,800,925

6. Mad Max: Fury Road, £397,541 from 374 sites. Total: £16,483,914

7. Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back, £261,525 from one site. Total: £666,340

8. London Road, £216,223 from 37 sites (new)

9. Avengers: Age of Ultron, £162,446 from 267 sites. Total: £48,075,500

10. Tomorrowland: The World Beyond, £121,847 from 341 sites. Total: £4,971,372

Other openers

Hamari Adhuri Kahani, £87,709 from 51 sites

The Look of Silence, £52,600 from 92 sites

Gascoigne, £47,455 (including £46,135 previews) from three sites

Queen and Country, £32,405 (including £4,839 previews) from 49 sites

Romeo Juliet, £20,702 from 11 sites

West, £9,232 (including £846 previews) from 15 sites

Freaks, £8,677 (including £7,892 previews) from five sites (rerelease)

The Misfits, £6,606 from seven sites (rerelease)

Let Us Prey, £1,780 from 10 sites

Unhallowed Ground, £152 from 1 site

• Thanks to Rentrak


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

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