UK-Ireland box office receipts will hit £1bn by the end of 2022, according to Lucy Jones, executive director of research and analytics firm Comscore Movies.
Citing figures provided by Gower Street Analytics, Jones said the UK-Ireland total is expected to end the year down around 25% from pre-pandemic figures, when it topped 1, £3 billion for three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019.
This marks an improvement from the start of the year, when the box office was down 40% from pre-pandemic levels. Eighteen films have exceeded £10m this year so far, with 11 of them exceeding £20m.
The 25% figure represents a slight drop from two months ago, when the box office trailed a 20% drop; indeed, Anglo-Irish cinemas are coming to the end of a difficult summer.
Seven week crisis
Shown to an audience at Film London and FilmHub Scotland’s Distributor Slate Days (DSD), Jones’ data showed weekly box office takings fell for seven consecutive sessions and fell to less than £10 million for the week ending September 9, down from a peak of £40m at the end of May.
However, the UK and Ireland outperform the global figures, which are down 34% from pre-pandemic levels. This suggests that the struggles are due to a dried up pipeline of substantial new releases.
There is reason to be optimistic on this front, with the path to the end of the year including Universal’s Halloween ends (October 14) and Warner Bros. black adam (21st of October); more Disney behemoths Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (November 11) and especially Avatar: The Way of the Water (December 16). Jones predicted the James Cameron sequel would be the biggest box office film of the year, tipping the total past the £1billion mark.
The Comscore executive also offered marketing tips to exhibitors in attendance, citing the success of the recent National Movie Day, which only began marketing a week before the event.
“It’s never too late to start – if you have a movie coming out, do a marketing effort if you can,” said Jones, who said the key to attracting audiences was to “give people a deadline, where there is something eventful on a particular night.
“We’ve seen it in the ads for the [first] Avatar re-releases, saying ‘For two weeks only, come to the movies,'” Jones continued. “You have to give people that sense of urgency – they have to go see it in the cinema right now.”
Distributor Slate Days opened with brief remarks from Adrian Wootton, Managing Director of Film London and the British Film Commission; and Jonny Courtney, UK-wide audience manager at the British Film Institute.
“Audience habits have changed – the larger economic issues have started to affect everyone,” Courtney said of the climate of the exhibit. So the key question is “Are we still in a post-pandemic recovery period, 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 recognize that bringing all the audiences back is difficult,” Courtney added. “This summer has shown that the market cannot survive without [only] big-budget studio films.
The day continued with 15-minute distributor presentations. Andy Waller, senior director of UK theatrical sales at The Walt Disney Company, focused on the company’s upcoming Searchlight Pictures slate, including the Venice Prize winner The Banshees of Inisherin (October 21), starring Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy 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 the biopic Emily Bronte by Frances O’Connor Emily (October 14), two titles focused on the United Kingdom with potential in this territory.
Among the independents, Curzon execs Jamie Mendonca and Charlotte Saluard revealed the winner of the Palme d’Or triangle of sadness will be in theaters exclusively from October 28 until at least early December.
Altitude theatrical sales director Bryony Gordon said the distributor is planning a first-quarter 2023 release for Venice Golden Lion winner Laura Poitras. All the beauty and bloodshed.
Altitude will also put seven “award-winning” Netflix titles in cinemas throughout the campaign, including Germany’s Oscar entry. In the west, nothing is new (October 14), Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu bardo (November 18) and Noah Baumbach’s White noise (December 9). The company also runs Apple Original’s Raymond and Ray (October 21), with Ethan Hawke and Ewen McGregor.
Curzon Releases Michael Grandage’s Toronto Romance my policeman for Amazon Studios on October 21. The film will screen at the BFI London Film Festival the week before release with cast and crew in attendance; although unfortunately lead actor Harry Styles will be absent due to previous commitments in the United States.
Dapo Oshiyemi, executive director of UK production and distribution company Talking Drum Entertainment, championed black UK audiences as an area of potential growth.
Highlighting the success of films such as those of 2019 blue story, Oshiyemi said the UK’s black population was “underserved” by the release schedule. Using a football analogy for the commercial effect of this dynamic, he said the UK exhibition industry was “playing a game with nine out of 11 players”. Talking Drum is in post-production on Hakeem Kae-Kazim’s comedy-drama It’s darknessthat it will hit theaters next summer.
Two titles that received the best response from DSD attendees were from smaller distributors: Sheffield DocFest People’s Choice Winner A group of amateurs, which Republic Film Distribution will release on November 11; and Estonian stop-motion comedy The Old Man Movie: Lactopolypsewhich Pat Kelman’s 606 Distribution is releasing soon.
The day then closed with a never-before-seen trailer from Studiocanal – Susanna Fogel’s cat personbased on the viral short story by Kristen Roupenian, and featuring Codais Emilia Jones and Successionis Nicolas Braun.