The winner

Resisting the challenge of the latest Liam Neeson actioner, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel held on to the top spot for the third week in a row. It’s the first film this year to achieve that feat – Fifty Shades of Grey only managed two weeks.

Second Best Exotic managed a particularly strong Sunday – barely down on Saturday – and it’s fair to assume this was boosted by Mother’s Day. Although the film is even-handed in its favours gender-wise – and in fact, if there is a lead character, he’s played by Dev Patel – the primary audience for this franchise is mature women. The film fell only 29% from its second frame, and now stands at £11.73m.

Bill Nighy talks about The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Second Best Exotic faced direct competition from Suite Française, which boasted a period setting, a romantic storyline and the stealth weapon that is Kristin Scott Thomas – in addition to the popularity of the literary source material by Irène Némirovsky. Suite Française proved no contest, however, landing in fourth place with just over £500,000.

The real winner

Not featuring in the official UK box-office chart, but in fact grossing more at the weekend than any other film on release, is the latest from DreamWorks Animation, Home. Playing in previews on Saturday and Sunday, the film recorded a very robust £2.45m. Again, Sunday proved particularly strong, suggesting that distributor Fox’s campaign, “Where the heart is this Mother’s Day – see it first Mother’s Day weekend”, resonated with audiences.

Marketing a family animation as a Mother’s Day treat might seem a little optimistic, although the storyline, about a teenage daughter trying to reach her mum after an alien invasion, may well appeal to this audience.

Home’s previews compare very favourably with recent family films. The Lego Movie, the animation smash of 2014, grossed £2.16m in weekend previews. If Home goes on to succeed at the box office, such an outcome will deliver a timely boost to DreamWorks Animation, which has suffered a turbulent period of losses and layoffs.

The alternative

It’s hard to say whether Run All Night represents dad-friendly counter-programming, or whether distributor Warners hoped to snag mums who fancied a serving of grizzled fox Liam Neeson on their special day. Either way, the film’s £824,000 debut suggests that the market for Neeson action is now becoming rather saturated. A Walk Among the Tombstones kicked off with £1.32m last September, and Non-Stop with £2.65m last spring. Taken 3, landing just two months ago, began with £6.71m, including £926,000 in previews. Neeson has no more action films awaiting release this year – only Ted 2 lies ahead – and Run All Night’s distributor Warners may now be pondering whether it might have been better to hold the film back until the autumn, to allow fan appetites to recover.

Run All Night – video review

The arthouse hit

The only film in the chart to enjoy an uptick in box-office is Still Alice, rising 9%. It’s pertinent to note that the Oscar-winning drama benefited from a major expansion, from 86 to 201 cinemas, which diluted the screen average from £4,454 to £2,086. However, that’s still a healthy number for a film in its second weekend, and we should bear in mind that averages always decline when a film expands from an initial set of hand-picked sites to a broader mix of venues. After 10 days, Still Alice stands at a promising £1.10m.

So far, it is following a fairly similar pattern to that of Boyhood, which began with 89 cinemas, and then pushed into 159, and then 253 in its third session. After two weekends, Boyhood stood at £897,000. It went on to reach £3.23m, but few think Still Alice will scale those heights.

Still Alice – video review

The underdog

Landing outside the top 10 is X+Y, with £154,000 from 117 cinemas, including £20,000 in previews. The audience for this film is hard to identify, which means it always represented a distribution challenge. The lead character is a teenage boy (played by Asa Butterfield), but the themes – autism, maths competition, grief – have an adult skew. Reviews were encouraging, and the film also enjoys a warm 7.6/10 user rating at IMDb, suggesting audience word is positive.

X+Y – video review

Comparisons are hard to make, but Trash – another adult-targeted title with juvenile leads – began in January with a disastrous £79,000 from 158 cinemas, plummeting thereafter. That film had the added complication of subtitles, as well as a 15 certificate that prevented adventurous parents from taking their kids. (X+Y is a flexible 12A.)

X+Y performed robustly at a number of indie cinemas. It is likely to shed any low-performing regional multiplexes and concentrate on a sustained run in Picturehouse, Curzon and Everyman sites as well as regional arts venues where it’s succeeding, such as Broadway Nottingham, Showroom Sheffield, Glasgow Film Theatre and Tyneside Cinema.

The future

The official box-office chart shows takings 28% down on the previous weekend, 25% down on the equivalent frame from 2014, and a whopping 50% down on an average session from the past year. The weekend is also the second-worst grossing session of the past year. All these numbers are skewed by the fact that the box-office earned by Home hasn’t been included this time, and we should witness a recovery this coming weekend.

Ray Winstone on The Gunman: ‘I’ve never seen a difficult lion’ - video interview

Home looks well positioned to lead the frame, but hopes are also high for Divergent sequel Insurgent. Also in the mix: Sean Penn actioner The Gunman; Jason Statham in Wild Card; and quirky, grisly Ryan Reynolds comedy The Voices. Studio Ghibli offers The Tale of Princess Kaguya in subtitled and dubbed versions, and arthouse audiences can choose between Xavier Dolan’s Mommy and Susanne Bier’s A Second Chance. Monday offers Maxine Peake as Hamlet, recorded at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester.

Top 10 films, 13-15 March

1. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, £1,409,311 from 592 sites. Total: £11,731,915

2. Run All Night, £823,833 from 436 sites (new)

3. Focus, £805,244 from 435 sites. Total: £5,642,938

Suite Française – video review

4. Suite Française, £503,928 from 425 sites (new)

5. Fifty Shades of Grey, £487,635 from 442 sites. Total: £33,829,335

6. Chappie, £448,288 from 470 sites. Total: £1,986,686

7. Still Alice, £419,327 from 201 sites. Total: £1,102,178

8. Big Hero 6, £387,905 from 487 sites. Total: £19,111,852

9. Kingsman: The Secret Service, £292,368 from 289 sites. Total: £15,784,342

10. Shaun the Sheep the Movie, £262,862 from 528 sites. Total: £12,728,442

Why Far From the Madding Crowd is the one film you should watch this week - video

Other openers

Behind the Beautiful Forevers – National Theatre Live, £268,539 (including £265,214 on Thursday)

La Donna Del Largo – Met Opera, £227,203 from 175 sites

X+Y, £154,374 (including £20,004 previews), 117 sites

The Sound of Music, £25,089, 94 sites (50th anniversary rerelease)

Far From the Madding Crowd, £6,377, 5 sites (rerelease)

My Name Is Salt, £2,023, 2 sites

Elle l’adore, £1,982, 2 sites

Fireman, £1,509, 7 sites

Tamil MI-7, £1,343, 4 sites

Lou!, £581, 1 site

• Thanks to Rentrak


Charles Gant

The GuardianTramp

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