The winner: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
For the fourth weekend in a row, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them has topped the UK box office. Weekend takings of £2.73m take the cumulative total to £42.4m. After 24 days of play, the JK Rowling-scripted wizarding adventure has overtaken the lifetime box office of every 2016 release except three films: Bridget Jones’s Baby (£47.9m), The Jungle Book (£46.2m) and Finding Dory (£42.8m).
In 2016, although quite a few titles managed three weeks at the top spot – The Revenant, Deadpool, Captain America: Civil War, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, Bridget Jones’s Baby – none has extended its reign to a fourth week, until now. Fantastic Beasts seems to be cruising towards top box-office honours for 2016, but faces a big challenge with the arrival on Thursday of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. On the other hand, the start of the school holidays later this month should provide another boost. Either way, Fantastic Beasts looks a dead cert to overtake the lowest-grossing Harry Potter film, 2004’s The Prisoner of Azkaban (£46.1m). (That comparison is not adjusted for inflation.)
The runner-up: Moana
Dropping just 13% from its opening session, Moana enjoys the strongest hold of any film in the Top 10. But after 10 days, box office is a troublingly low £4.77m – and the picture has a long road to travel to reach a number that would be respectable for a major release from Disney Animation (£20m, although Zootropolis did £24m). Disney-Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur had reached £5.12m at the same stage of its run, and that film ended on a disappointing £15.1m. Disney may now be wondering if Moana would have done better in the traditional late January/early February spot, positioned for February half-term – this worked in recent years for Disney Animation’s Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Instead, Universal Illumination has nabbed that slot for Sing (out 27 January).
The top new release: Office Christmas Party
Landing at fourth place in the chart, Office Christmas Party begins with a decent £1.20m, including previews of £288,000. That compares with a debut of £799,000 for Bad Santa 2 a couple of weeks ago. Distributor eOne will now hope to grab as much cash for both these titles this week and next; from Boxing Day onwards, Christmas-themed works tend to evaporate at the box office.
Office Christmas Party’s formula of festive high jinks might seem a fairly safe commercial bet, but Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie struck out with the drug-fuelled The Night Before in December 2015, debuting with a poor £273,000 from 279 cinemas. Office Christmas Party has the benefit of a highly relatable premise, and arguably also a something-for-everyone cast (including Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston and TJ Miller – AKA the barman from Deadpool).
The live event: The Nutcracker
Missing from the official comScore weekend chart – because it occurred last Thursday – is The Nutcracker ballet, beamed live from London’s Royal Opera House. The event grossed £796,000 on Thursday, with weekend encores pushing the total to £921,000. That would have been enough to earn The Nutcracker fifth place in the chart, had comScore combined all the takings into a single figure.
While crowds flocked to The Nutcracker, the usually reliable New York Met Opera fell horribly flat on Saturday with L’Amour de Loin. The live event grossed a poor £81,000 from 173 cinemas, which compares with £254,000 from 177 venues for Mozart’s Don Giovanni in October. It’s fair to say that the composer of L’Amour de Loin – Finland’s Kaija Saariaho – is not so familiar to the target audience. L’Amour de Loin was first performed in 2000, and hardly qualifies as a beloved classic.
The arthouse battle
Two major new indie films struggled to engage significant audiences. Oliver Stone’s Snowden, released into 184 cinemas, managed an OK-sounding £209,000, but that figure is boosted by £68,000 of previews. Strip those out, and the site average falls to a poor £768. Nate Parker’s The Birth of a Nation achieved £135,000 from 196 venues, but again this number includes fairly hefty previews of £49,000. Remove them, and the site average falls to a weedy £441.
Snowden is the latest biopic of a controversial contemporary figure to disappoint at the box office, following The Fifth Estate (about Julian Assange) and The Program (Lance Armstrong). As for The Birth of a Nation, which won both the grand jury prize and audience award in the US Dramatic Competition at the Sundance film festival and sold for $17.5m in a huge bidding war to Fox Searchlight, the film’s sad commercial fate must be a crushing blow to the film-makers. This is a title that always needed anointing by awards voters to help connect to audiences, but the Oscar campaign collapsed under the weight of the historical rape allegations that resurfaced in August concerning Parker and creative collaborator Jean McGianni Celestin. (Parker was acquitted in 2001, and Celestin had his conviction overturned in 2005. The pair’s accuser committed suicide in 2012.)
Two highly praised smaller releases – documentary Life, Animated and drama The Pass, starring Russell Tovey as a closeted gay football star – failed to convert the critical buzz into bums on seats. If previews are stripped out, both earned site averages below £1,000. The indie space is already occupied by the likes of Arrival, A United Kingdom, Paterson and Nocturnal Animals, as well as reliable festive re-release It’s a Wonderful Life, meaning that the indie box-office cake is being split into quite a number of pieces.
Thanks to the paucity of major new releases, box office takings are down 23% on the previous frame, but nevertheless 44% up on the equivalent weekend from 2015, which suffered an even more desperate lack of strong new product. The reason for that void a year ago was the imminent arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it’s the same story this year – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrives this Thursday. Cinema bookers have long been counting on Rogue One to end the year with a big commercial flourish, and rival distributors are giving this weekend a wide berth. The only alternatives are a handful of small arthouse releases, including documentary The Eagle Huntress, narrated by Daisy Ridley. Next Monday sees the arrival of Ballerina, an animation featuring the voice of Elle Fanning.
Top 10 films , 9-11 December
1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, £2,734,960 from 620 sites. Total: £42,392,249 (4 weeks)
2. Moana, £1,911,784 from 563 sites. Total: £4,773,161 (2 weeks)
3. Sully: Miracle on the Hudson, £1,222,683 from 592 sites. Total: £4,308,008 (2 weeks)
4. Office Christmas Party, £1,198,176 from 479 sites (new)
5. Allied, £363,767 from 436 sites. Total: £3,634,915 (3 weeks)
6. Arrival, £268,329 from 283 sites. Total: £8,604,881 (5 weeks)
7. Trolls, £248,619 from 490 sites. Total: £22,530,783 (8 weeks)
8. Snowden, £209,352 from 184 sites (new)
9. Bad Santa 2, £154,758 from 302 sites. Total: £1,726,290 (3 weeks)
10. Befikre, £152,957 from 95 sites (new)
The Birth of a Nation, £135,162 (including £48,704 previews) from 196 sites
L’Amour De Loin – Met Opera, £80,742 from 173 sites (event)
Life, Animated, £25,706 (including £12,920 previews) from 25 sites
The Pass, £18,673 from 24 sites
Chennai 600028 II: Second Innings, £11,382 from 8 sites
I Am Not a Serial Killer, £11,233 from 12 sites
The Super Parental Guardians, £11,023 from 3 sites
Little Screen December, £8,474 from 101 sites
A Trip to Jamaica, £5,996 from 1 site
Kattappanayile Rithwik Roshan, £5,461 from 19 sites
The Young Offenders, £3,011 from 11 sites (Northern Ireland release)
A Christmas Star, £2,379 from 11 sites (Ireland release)
Black Hen, £2,343 from 2 sites
Suddenly Seventeen, £957 from 4 sites
The Ardennes, £719 from 2 sites
Heritage of Love, £345 from 3 sites
- Thanks to comScore. All figures relate to takings in UK and Ireland cinemas.