Charles Gant 

Men in Black 3 can’t stand the heat at the UK box office

Charles Gant: The dark sunglasses were on, but the Men in Black suffered inside as cinemagoers stayed outside; and What to Expect When You're Expecting also landed below expectations
  
  

The disappointment #1

When Sony UK opted to release Men in Black 3 in the UK on the same day as in the US – Memorial Day weekend – it always knew it was taking a risk with the weather. But by this point of the year, you'd assume that sunshine wouldn't have that devastating an impact on admissions – cinemagoers should already have had plenty of opportunities to enjoy their gardens, roof terraces and local parks. In late May, warm temperatures shouldn't be too much of a novelty. The distributor can count itself unlucky that Men in Black 3 landed amid the hottest weather of the year so far, following the rainiest April on record and a distinctly patchy May. Matinees, in particular, and early evening showtimes were always going to be aversely affected. The resulting £2.94m opening weekend tally suffers in comparison with recent debuts, eg The Dictator (£4.96m, including £1.54m previews), American Pie: Reunion (£6.33m, including £1.86m previews), Avengers Assemble (£15.78m, including £2.55m previews) and The Hunger Games (£4.90m, including £431,000 previews).

The Men in Black 3 result also falls well below previous entries in the franchise: the original Men in Black film kicked off its run in August 1997 with £7.07m, and the sequel in 2002 with £6.19m. Of course, the 10-year gap between the second and third instalments can't have helped. In the US, Men in Black 3 grossed $55m over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of the holiday weekend, suggesting a UK result around £5.5m – nearly double the figure achieved. The weather clearly had a massive impact here.

The disappointment #2

Men in Black 3 isn't the only film landing below expectations. Ensemble comedy What to Expect When You're Expecting also under-performed, with a mediocre £662,000, including previews of £69,000. The brand value of Heidi Murkoff's non-fiction book may have been less than assumed. Within this genre, He's Just Not That into You debuted with £1.91m back in February 2009, and Valentine's Day a year later with £3.73m. New Year's Eve was less potent, kicking off last December with £1.29m, including previews of £175,000. Although from different creators, What to Expect may have suffered from audience disappointment with the latter title.

The big fallers

New releases were not the only pictures to suffer. Existing titles also wilted in the sun, with every film in the top 15 declining by at least 69%. Zac Efron romance The Lucky One fell 90%, earning 11th place with just £26,103. That's the lowest figure for a film in 11th place since Molière achieved the distinction with £23,845, back in late July 2007, in a highly polarised market dominated by new entrants The Simpsons Movie and Transformers. Avengers Assemble, falling 69%, posted its first weekend tally below £1m, although Disney will take comfort that the film has just overtaken The Inbetweeners Movie to be the second biggest hit of the past 12 months (behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). In the all-time chart, Avengers Assemble rises to 23rd position, just ahead of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. With £46.89m so far, it will need to arrest its rate of decline if it is to overtake The Dark Knight (£49.07m) and thus become the UK's biggest comic book superhero film ever.

The arthouse market

If your local independent cinema is playing summer blockbusters, don't blame the programmers. There's a dearth of strong arthouse movies currently available, a notable exception being Wes Anderson's Cannes film festival opener Moonrise Kingdom, which opened with £252,000 from 163 screens. This compares with a debut of £435,000 from 192 sites for Anderson's last live-action film, The Darjeeling Limited, back in November 2007. The Life

Aquatic's first weekend of wide play saw it gross £456,000 from 207 cinemas in February 2005. With a slightly more modest screen count for Moonrise Kingdom, distributor Universal may have been looking for a debut in the £350-400,000 range, and it's hard to dispute that the hot weather knocked at least £100,000 off the opening tally, probably a lot more. After a reasonably solid start, critically acclaimed Jakarta-set actioner The Raid fell 69%, and now looks to shed many of its ambitiously wide 239 sites. Still, a 10-day total of £805,000 is strong for the Asian action genre. Thanks to healthy previews of £49,000, Iron Sky snuck into the top 10 with £66,000 in total.

The future

Overall, the market saw the lowest grosses since the weekend of 30 September - 2 October last year, when blazing sunshine once again saw audiences forsake cinemas for outdoor spaces, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, on its third weekend of release, was the only title achieving £1m-plus. The current frame is down a troubling 63% on the equivalent weekend from 2011, when The Hangover Part II landed with £10.41m including previews of £2.03m. Cinema owners will now be praying that the one-two punch of Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsman can turn the market around, as Jubilee weekend kicks off the school half-term holiday. LOL, starring Miley Cyrus, targets teen and tween girls. Ken Loach's whisky caper The Angels' Share should play effectively as a niche title, and much more broadly in Scotland.

Top 10 films

1. Men In Black 3, £2,953,736 from 532 sites (New)

2. The Dictator, £1,078,155 from 507 sites. Total: £7,563,554

3. Avengers Assemble, £872,664 from 479 sites. Total: £46,891,709

4. What to Expect When You're Expecting, £661,617 from 415 sites (New)

5. Dark Shadows, £409,560 from 450 sites. Total: £6,236,054

6. American Pie: Reunion, £362,323 from 378 sites. Total: £15,813,549

7. Moonrise Kingdom, £251,760 from 163 sites (New)

8. The Raid, £116,340 from 239 sites. Total: £805,399

9. Beauty and the Beast 3D, £69,795 from 306 sites. Total: £2,475,361

10. Iron Sky, £66,076 from 26 sites (New)

Other openers

Free Men, 14 sites, £9,529 (+ £2,771 previews)

Urumi, 10 sites, £4,668

Rahe Chardi Kala Punjab Di, 5 sites, £2,919

Tales of the Night, 5 sites, £2,068

Barbaric Genius, 2 sites, £1,129

Personal Best, 1 site, £400

 

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