Wonder Woman shakes off female superhero curse to top UK box office

Comic-book adventure outruns Baywatch, while My Life As a Courgette struggles to compete with another animated film, The Red Turtle

The winner: Wonder Woman

While most summer blockbusters get a clear run at audiences on their debut weekend, the first frame of June 2017 proved an exception, with Wonder Woman competing head to head with Baywatch. Both films had the advantage of audience familiarity with their characters. Distinct appeal included variously a rare female protagonist and shirtless duo Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson.

The Patty Jenkins-directed Wonder Woman opened in the UK in the top spot, taking £4.94m over the Friday-to-Sunday period and £6.18m including Thursday previews. Warner Bros was quick to trumpet success for “the first female-led big-screen adventure of the modern superhero era”. The solid numbers should help Warners forget its previous attempt to mount a female-driven comic-book franchise with 2004’s Catwoman, which limped to a lifetime UK box office of just £1.41m. (Fox did little better with 2005’s Elektra, managing a similar £1.46m final total.) In other words: Wonder Woman has finally shaken off the female superhero box-office curse.

Stateside, Wonder Woman opened with a sensational $103m, a box-office record for a female-directed feature. The UK equivalent of that number, calculated using a long-established industry rule of thumb, would be £10.3m – about double the actual result.

Wonder Woman: watch the trailer for the DC superhero film.

Excluding previews, Wonder Woman’s £4.94m debut is ahead of the £4.55m delivered by Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge the previous weekend, and better than Alien: Covenant’s £4.83m a couple of weekends before that. However, no fewer than 10 films so far this year have opened bigger: La La Land, Sing, T2 Trainspotting, The Lego Batman Movie, Fifty Shades Darker, Logan, Kong: Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast, Fast & Furious 8 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

Summer blockbuster season traditionally used to begin at the start of May, and in recent years has included April. Now the whole concept of summer providing the blockbuster season is due for a rethink, with films released so far in May and June eclipsed by so many titles from the first four months of the year. The biggest film so far this year (Beauty and the Beast, £71.1m) was released in March.

The runner-up: Baywatch

Baywatch trailer: check out the lifeguard movie with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron.

Baywatch lands in second place in the chart with £4.63m – not bad for a film with a 5.7/10 user rating on Internet Movie Database and an even weaker Metacritic score of 38/100. However, this is a seven-day figure, including takings from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, when it was half term for most schools. For the weekend period alone, Baywatch grossed a less impressive £1.91m.

In comparison with other cult TV shows adapted for the big screen, Baywatch opened bigger than The Dukes of Hazzard’s debut of £1.72m (including £554,000 in previews) from August 2005. For its first weekend of full release, in March 2004, Starsky & Hutch grossed £4.15m (including previews of £1.41m). The A-Team kicked off with £3.57m (including £1.07m in previews) in July 2010, while 21 Jump Street began with £1.56m (no previews) in March 2012.

The arthouse animation battle: The Red Turtle v My Life As a Courgette

At the Cannes film festival last year, two animated features caught the attention of critics: Michaël Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle and Claude Barras’s My Life As a Courgette. Fast forward one year and both have appeared in UK cinemas, one week apart.

My Life As a Courgette, which played in dubbed and subtitled versions, has opened with £38,500 from 58 cinemas (£56,000 including previews). That is no disaster, but it is fair to wonder if it might have been higher had it not faced direct competition from The Red Turtle. The Studio Ghibli production added £59,000 from 52 venues at the weekend, taking its 10-day tally to an impressive £274,000.

Both films have been well reviewed, with an 85/100 Metacritic score for Courgette and 86/100 for Turtle.

The market

Thanks to Wonder Woman and Baywatch, takings are up a handy 64% on the previous frame and 6% up on the equivalent weekend a year ago, when Warcraft: The Beginning and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were the top new releases. For the first five months of the year, the UK box office overall is up by an encouraging 15% on the same period in 2016. Cinema bookers will now be hoping that the rest of the summer delivers hits equivalent to The Secret Life of Pets, The BFG, Finding Dory and Suicide Squad, which landed between June and August last year.

Top 10 films, 2-4 June

1. Wonder Woman, £6,179,616 from 599 sites (new)

2. Baywatch, £4,631,244 from 506 sites (new)

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge, £2,737,320 from 633 sites. Total: £13,033,272 (two weeks)

4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, £851,207 from 557 sites. Total: £3,932,838 (two weeks)

5. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, £642,224 from 474 sites. Total: £39,646,990 (six weeks)

6. Alien: Covenant, £327,309 from 388 sites. Total: £12,320,847 (four weeks)

7. The Boss Baby, £293,048 from 450 sites. Total: £27,920,847 (nine weeks)

8. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, £209,402 from 350 sites. Total: £4,634,166 (three weeks)

9. Secret Cinema: Moulin Rouge!, £132,945 from one site. Total: £4,252,526 (16 weeks)

10. Snatched, £104,384 from 223 sites. Total: £1,955,348 (three weeks

Other openers

After the Storm.
After the Storm. Photograph: film company handout

British Museum Presents: Hokusai, £92,265 from 150 sites

My Life As a Courgette, £55,566 (including £17,061 in previews) from 58 sites

Dough, £51,426 from 18 sites

The Hippopotamus, £46,338 (including £37,061 in previews) from 22 sites

After the Storm, £21,955 (including £8,275 in previews) from 20 sites

Daughters of the Dust, £4,889 from eight sites (reissue)

Dobaara: See Your Evil, £4,782 from nine sites

Rakshadhikari Baiju-Oppu, £2,258 from 28 sites

Jattu Engineer, £1,076 from two sites

The Shepherd, £972 from three sites

  • Thanks to comScore. All figures relate to takings in UK and Ireland cinemas.


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

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