Toy Story 3 closes in on Lord of the Rings films in UK rankings

Though unlikely to overtake Avatar as number one in the all-time UK box-office rankings, Pixar's animated film is expected to make an assault on second place in the next few weeks

The winner

A week ago, this column reported that Toy Story 3 stood at 12th place in the all-time UK box-office rankings, after just 21 days of play. Seven days later, and it's now moved up to seventh position, overtaking The Full Monty, the second Pirates Of The Caribbean, the second Harry Potter, Casino Royale and the second Lord Of The Rings. In just 28 days, Toy Story 3 has grossed £58.91m.

Next in the Pixar animation's sights are Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (£61.06m) and Lord Of The Rings: Fellowship Of The Ring (£63.01m). It should overtake both during the next seven days, earning fifth place in the all-time rankings. The top four films of all time are, in reverse order: the first Harry Potter, Titanic, Mamma Mia! and Avatar. Toy Story 3 has close to zero chance of catching Avatar (£91.99m, with a special-edition re-release imminent). Where it will place in relation to the other three top pictures is open to conjecture – place your bets now.

Toy Story 3 has mounted a much faster assault on the box-office than any of those previous hits. Avatar, for example, stood at £40.99m after four weekends of play, but went on to gross £5m-plus on both its fifth and sixth weekends of release. Toy Story 3 has reached a much bigger total in four weeks, but has already slowed its pace considerably. And being among the glut of blockbusters that entered the UK market after the World Cup, it faces a more competitive environment than Avatar did, to say nothing of the direct competition it faces for access to the nation's 3D screens.

The climber

Two weeks ago, Inception nestled in fourth place. Last weekend, it moved up to third. Now it's in second. Shrugging off the challenge from current releases such as The Last Airbender, Knight And Day, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Step Up 3D, Inception finds itself in the weekend chart's runner-up spot on its fifth week of release. Not even Alice In Wonderland managed that feat. With cumulative takings of £29.20m, Inception ranks as the fifth biggest release of 2010 so far, behind Toy Story 3, Alice In Wonderland, Shrek Forever After and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (with the latter just ahead of Inception, on £29.31m). Whether or not the success will embolden Hollywood studios to place further bets on visionary film-makers telling original stories that place demands on their audiences remains to be seen.

The newbies

Scoring one out of 10 in the Guardian's own weekly assessment of the nation's reviewers, and rated just 7% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, M Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender certainly didn't benefit from critical endorsement. Saddled with a title likely to provoke pubescent sniggers, and facing the challenge of its TV source material lacking the popularity here that it enjoys in the US, the film overcame many odds to open with a decent £1.65m, including previews of £390,000. That's not a figure likely to see Paramount executives doing cartwheels, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

The result is also significantly ahead of Disney's new Jerry Bruckheimer production, The Sorcerer's Apprentice. Following a limp opening for Bruckheimer's Prince Of Persia (£1.37m) in May, his latest fantasy adventure debuted with £1.14m, including £289,000 in previews. After many years as the blockbuster king (Pirates Of The Caribbean, etc), and a long run of action hits with former partner Don Simpson (Beverly Hills Cop, Top Gun), the Bruckheimer formula seems finally to be losing favour with cinema audiences. Even King Arthur, which was a rare commercial disappointment on the Bruckheimer resumé, debuted with £1.91m back in 2004. National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, the last film to unite the producer with Sorcerer's Apprentice director Jon Turteltaub and star Nicolas Cage, opened with £2.48m in February 2008.

As for Shyamalan, his previous movie The Happening started its run in June 2008 with £1.63m, almost identical to The Last Airbender's opening, albeit achieved without the benefit of previews.

The loser

Having entered the chart the previous week in lowly fifth place, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore finds itself down at number nine on only its second weekend of play. In fairness, it is a property that is playing rather better midweek, thanks to kids on summer holiday, but this is nevertheless a poor result. The fact that the film's weekend takings at 2D screens were almost level with 3D earnings indicates that it is losing the battle for key 3D venues and showtimes to competitors Toy Story 3, Step Up 3D and The Last Airbender. For comparison, Step Up's weekend takings at 3D venues were more than seven times the amount the film grossed in 2D.

The Revenge Of Kitty Galore is evidently discovering that, in the current exhibition landscape, it doesn't pay to be fourth in a four-way fight for 3D screens.

The arthouse winner

Although both Toy Story 3 and Inception continue to exhibit strong appeal for upscale audiences, there are currently no actual arthouse films in the top 10. Premier arthouse title is The Secret In Their Eyes, Argentina's foreign language picture Oscar winner, which opened on 15 screens with an impressive £5,624 average. Juan José Campanella's crime mystery brings to an end the run of French-language films that have dominated arthouse venues all summer. Of those, biopic Gainsbourg plunges a disturbing 53%, although that can partly be attributed to a significant shedding of screens, down from 50 to 34.

The future

Despite the lack of strong commercial new releases, the overall market is a surprising 40% up on the equivalent weekend from 2009, when The Time Traveler's Wife and Aliens In The Attic opened in the top two places. One key difference is the current frame boasts six films with weekend takings of £1m-plus, whereas a year ago there were only two. The success looks likely to continue with the release on Friday of Angelina Jolie thriller Salt, old-school action ensemble The Expendables and Piranha 3D. Sylvester Stallone's The Expendables already has some nifty coin in its kitty: it previewed on Friday and Saturday with takings on those days ahead of the likes of The Last Airbender, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Step Up 3D.

Top 10 films

1. Toy Story 3, £3,162,944 from 569 sites. Total: £58,908,398

2. Inception, £1,681,130 from 472 sites. Total: £29,204,120

3. The Last Airbender, £1,653,776 from 450 sites (New)

4. Knight And Day, £1,529,478 from 441 sites. Total: £5,908,505

5. The Sorcerer's Apprentice, £1,140,532 from 406 sites (New)

6. Step Up 3D, £1,078,100 from 401 sites. Total: £4,946,688

7. The Karate Kid, £764,748 from 428 sites. Total: £10,600,383

8. The A-Team, £762,570 from 413 sites. Total: £8,915,586

9. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge Of Kitty Galore, £488,905 from 480 sites. Total: £3,218,492

10. Tinker Bell And The Great Fairy Rescue, £288,544 from 236 sites (New)

How the other openers did

The Secret In Their Eyes, 15 screens, £84,357

Le Refuge, 13 screens, £16,012

Five Easy Pieces, eight screens, £10,982

Black Dynamite, eight screens, £6,409 + £418 preview

The Final, one screen, £228


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

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