BlacKkKlansman infiltrates UK box office but Christopher Robin stays on top

Undercover-cop tale marks Spike Lee’s commercial comeback, while Ian McEwan adaptation The Children Act is dwarfed by box-office giants

The winner: BlacKkKlansman

Achieving the highest site average for any film on release at UK cinemas is BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee’s undercover-cop tale – inspired by one Colorado police department’s successful infiltration of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter in the late 1970s – has begun with a very encouraging £1.11m from 217 venues, or £1.23m including previews. Site average for the weekend period is a very robust £5,122.

BlacKkKlansman’s success represents a return to commercial form for Lee after a long dry spell. His previous film in UK cinemas, Chi-Raq, grossed £59,500 over the course of its entire theatrical run. Before that, his 2013 Oldboy remake earned a disappointing £203,000 in total. BlacKkKlansman has achieved the biggest commercial success for a Spike Lee film in the UK since the 2006 heist thriller Inside Man debuted with £1.81m, including £346,000 in previews, on its way to a lifetime total of £8.29m.

Look for BlacKkKlansman to expand this Friday as its distributor Universal pushes the film into a broader swathe of multiplexes.

The hot sextet: the £1m club

BlacKkKlansman was one of six titles to earn more than £1m at the UK box office at the weekend, the others being chart-topper Christopher Robin, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Meg, The Equalizer 2 and Incredibles 2. Add Wednesday and Thursday previews into The Spy Who Dumped Me (which the official chart does), and that makes a seventh.

The chart from the equivalent weekend a year ago showed just one £1m hit (newcomer American Made), so it’s no great surprise to see the box office for the session up a very powerful 94% on a year ago. Late August isn’t traditionally a great time for cinema-going – all the big blockbusters have played out – but 2018 is proving surprisingly resilient. Titles such as Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, still in second place in its sixth week of release, are helping.

In a year yet to provide a breakout R-rated comedy hit – certainly nothing to match past successes such as The Hangover, Ted, Bridesmaids, Bad Neighbours or 21 Jump Street – The Spy Who Dumped Me has delivered one of the better outcomes. Top for the genre this year remains Game Night, which opened in early March with £1.09m including negligible previews.

The invisible hit No 1: The Children Act

Thanks to the large number of titles performing strongly at the weekend, missing from the Top 10 chart is The Children Act, adapted from the Ian McEwan novel and starring Emma Thompson. The upmarket drama went out on a relatively tight 148 prints, yielding box office of £508,000 plus £10,000 in previews. Site average for the weekend is a robust £3,431 – second only to BlacKkKlansman among films playing at conventional cinema venues (not counting Secret Cinema, in other words).

On Chesil Beach, the last film adapted from a McEwan novel, opened in May with £67,000 from 31 sites, expanding a week later with £171,000 from 138 sites. The Children Act is doing considerably better, and is benefiting from a star actor (Thompson) that is highly relevant to its older-skewing audience.

The invisible hit No 2: Secret Cinema

Also missing from the Top 10 is Secret Cinema’s presentation of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. The event, which ended its 14-date run on 26 August, grossed £457,000 for the relevant period (ie on Friday and Saturday), taking its total to £3.33m – an average of £256,000 per night.

Secret Cinema essentially has two economic models for its big presentations: a long run in an indoor venue with relatively limited capacity or a short run in an exterior location with massive capacity (in this instance, west London’s Gunnersbury Park, with room for up to 5,000 people). The previous big outdoor event from Secret Cinema was Dirty Dancing in July 2016, grossing £1.90m from its six-day run. Secret Cinema’s 16-week run of Blade Runner: The Final Cut this year grossed £4.80m.

The market

The weekend’s 94% increase on the last weekend of August 2017 stretches the number of sessions showing box office improvement on the year-ago result to five in a row. Cinemas took a knock with the heatwave and the World Cup, but have been making up lost ground since mid-July. As for the coming session, the first weekend in September is traditionally light for new releases. On this occasion, cinema bookers have hopes pinned on the missing-person thriller Searching. Also in the mix: Idris Elba’s feature-directing debut Yardie and Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cannes prizewinner Cold War.

Top 10 films, 24-26 August

1. Christopher Robin, £2,138,824 from 673 sites. Total: £7,184,365 sites (two weeks)

2. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, £1,701,162 from 654 sites. Total: £58,748,746 (six weeks)

3. The Meg, £1,502,535 from 549 sites. Total: £11,734,530 (three weeks)

4. Incredibles 2, £1,268,401 from 582 sites. Total: £51,229,806 (seven weeks)

5. The Equalizer 2, £1,256,615 from 497 sites. Total: £4,558,724 (two weeks)

6. BlacKkKlansman, £1,234,615 from 217 sites (new)

7. The Spy Who Dumped Me, £1,057,211 from 475 sites (new)

8. Mission: Impossible – Fallout, £924,424 from 445 sites. Total: £21,855,333 (five weeks)

9. Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation, £910,555 from 574 sites. Total: £15,966,398 (five weeks)

8. Ant-Man and the Wasp, £794,409 from 471 sites. Total: £15,470,066 (four weeks)

Other openers

The Children Act, £517,378 from 148 sites

Slender Man, £389,339 from 280 sites

Alpha, £225,606 from 280 sites

Luis and the Aliens, £218,248 from 465 sites

Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2, £203,714 from 47 sites

Load Wedding, £46,413 from 37 sites

Happy Phirr Bhag Jayegi, £44,585 from 44 sites

Parwaaz Hai Junoon, £40,230 from 21 sites

The King, £11,136 from 10 sites

Bad Samaritan, £7,258 from 10 sites

One Note at a Time, £1,007 from three sites

Guru Da Banda, £695 from nine sites

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


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

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