UK-Ireland box office takings will top £1bn by the end of 2022, according to Lucy Jones, executive director at research and analytics firm Comscore Movies.
Quoting figures provided by Gower Street Analytics, Jones said the UK-Ireland total is predicted to end the year about 25% down on pre-pandemic figures, when it topped £1.3bn for three consecutive years from 2017-2019.
This marks an improvement from the start of the year, when box office was tracking 40% down on pre-pandemic levels. Eighteen films have topped £10m this year to date, with 11 passing £20m.
The 25% figure does represent a slight drop from two months ago, when box office was tracking 20% down; indeed, UK-Ireland cinemas are coming to the end of a difficult summer.
Presenting to an audience at Film London and FilmHub Scotland’s Distributor Slate Days (DSD), Jones’ data showed that weekly box office takings have dropped for seven consecutive sessions, and are down to below £10m for the week ending September 9, down from a peak of £40m in late May.
However, UK-Ireland is outperforming global figures, which are down 34% on pre-pandemic levels. This suggests the struggles are due to a dry pipeline of substantial new releases.
There is cause for optimism on that front, with the path to the end of the year including Universal’s Halloween Ends (October 14) and Warner Bros’ Black Adam (October 21); plus Disney behemoths Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11) and especially Avatar: The Way Of Water (December 16). Jones predicted that the James Cameron sequel will be the biggest film of the year at the box office, tipping the total past the £1bn mark.
The Comscore exec also offered marketing advice for the attending exhibitors, citing the success of the recent National Cinema Day, which only began marketing a week before the event.
“It’s never too late to start – if you’ve got a film coming out, do a marketing push if you can,” said Jones, who said the key to attracting audiences was “giving people a deadline, where there’s something eventised on a particular night.”
“We’ve seen it in the adverts for the [first] Avatar re-issues, saying ‘For two weeks only, come to cinemas’,” Jones continued. “You’ve got to give people that sense of urgency – the must go and see it in the cinema right now.”
Distributor Slate Days opened with brief addresses by Adrian Wootton, chief executive at Film London and the British Film Commission; and Jonny Courtney, UK-wide audiences manager at the British Film Institute.
“Audience habits have shifted – the wider economic issues have started to affect everyone,” said Courtney of the exhibition climate. The key question is therefore “Are we still in a period of recovery post-pandemic, or is this a permanent new landscape for distribution and exhibition?”
“We won’t know for the next few months, [but] it’s important to acknowledge that there are some difficulties in bringing back all audiences,” Courtney added. “This summer has shown that the market can’t survive off [only] the big-budget studio films.”
The day proceeded with 15-minute distributor presentations. Andy Waller, senior manager, UK theatrical sales at The Walt Disney Company focused on the company’s upcoming Searchlight Pictures slate, including Venice prize-winner The Banshees Of Inisherin (October 21), Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy starrer The Menu (November 18) and Sam Mendes’ Empire Of Light (January 13, 2023).
Warner Bros’ Nicolas Ognibene previewed Stephen Frears’ The Lost King (October 7) and Frances O’Connor’s Emily Bronte biopic Emily (October 14), two UK-centric titles with potential in this territory.
From the independents, Curzon execs Jamie Mendonca and Charlotte Saluard revealed Palme d’Or winner Triangle Of Sadness will be in cinemas exclusively from October 28 until at least the beginning of December.
Altitude’s director of theatrical sales Bryony Gordon said the distributor is planning a Q1 2023 release for Laura Poitras’ Venice Golden Lion winner All The Beauty And The Bloodshed.
Altitude will also put seven “awards-friendly” Netflix titles in cinemas throughout the campaign run, including German Oscar entry All Quiet On The Western Front (October 14), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Bardo (November 18) and Noah Baumbach’s White Noise (December 9). The company is also handling Apple Original’s Raymond And Ray (October 21), starring Ethan Hawke and Ewan McGregor.
Curzon is releasing Michael Grandage’s Toronto romance My Policeman for Amazon Studios on October 21. The film will play at BFI London Film Festival the week before the release with cast and crew in attendance; although unfortunately lead actor Harry Styles will be absent due to prior commitments in the US.
Dapo Oshiyemi, executive director of UK production and distribution firm Talking Drum Entertainment, advocated for the Black British audience as an area of potential growth.
Highlighting the success of films such as 2019’s Blue Story, Oshiyemi said the UK’s Black population is “underserved” by the release calendar. Using a football analogy for the commercial effect of this dynamic, he said the UK exhibition industry “is playing a match with nine out of 11 players.” Talking Drum is in post-production on Hakeem Kae-Kazim’s comedy drama It’s The Blackness, which it will release theatrically next summer.
Two titles that received the best reaction from the DSD attendees came from smaller distributors: Sheffield DocFest audience award winner A Bunch Of Amateurs, which Republic Film Distribution is releasing on November 11; and Estonian stop-motion comedy The Old Man Movie: Lactopolypse, which Pat Kelman’s 606 Distribution is dating soon.
The day then rounded off with an unreleased trailer from Studiocanal – Susanna Fogel’s Cat Person, based on Kristen Roupenian’s viral short story, and starring Coda’s Emilia Jones and Succession’s Nicholas Braun.