'Back To Black'

Source: Dean Rogers / Focus Features

‘Back To Black’

The UK-Ireland box office showed positive signs across the first quarter (Q1) of 2024, with UK drama performing particularly well, while the second quarter (Q2) is off to a sluggish start.

Total box office from January to mid-April grossed £217m, a 17% increase from 2023, according to figures from the British Film Institute (BFI).*

This figure relates to 242 films, including Ireland-only releases but excluding event cinema releases and five Netflix films that did not report their box office. 

Warner Bros’ Dune: Part Two was the highest-grossing release in Q1, with £38m at the UK and Ireland box office. Warner Bros also released One Life, the highest-grossing UK independent film in the period, taking £10m.

In 2023, Pathe/Warner Bros’ The Great Escaper was the only UK drama to gross over £5m throughout the entire year. 

This year, there have been four to-date already:  Studiocanal’s Back To Black  (£12m), Warner Bros’ One Life  (£10m), Studiocanal’s Wicked Little Letters  (£9.5m) and Disney/Searchlight’s All Of Us Strangers  (£5.2m).

The market share of UK independent films at the UK-Ireland box office in Q1 was 13.6%, compared to 9.2% for Q1 2023. 

Event cinema titles had a strong start to the year, grossing over £9m in Q1, thanks to a steady pipeline of films on release. These include one-man show Vanya starring Andrew Scott, which took £1.6m after three weekends on release for National Theatre Live (as of March 11).

Q2: a slow burner? 

The total box office for May 2024 in UK-Ireland was £72.7m. Disney’s Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes  was the month’s top performer, with a total of £13.7m after releasing in the second week of May. May 2024 was down 29% compared to the equivalent period in May 2023 which topped £102m, led by Disney’s Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3  with £35m, according to figures from Comscore.

As of May 31, the total UK-Ireland box office for 2024 had grossed £379.8m, tracking 9% behind 2023, which brought in £419.5m.

Robert Mitchell, Gower Street Analytics’ director of theatrical insights, is optimistic for the UK-Ireland box office in 2024 but said patience is key.

“There have obviously been disappointments, but on the plus side, and we saw it last year at some of the weaker points, the scope of titles means that some of the drops aren’t too bad,” said Mitchell. “For example IF going up to number one in its third week on release, the family titles are holding well and Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes and The Fall Guy are on relatively soft drops, which is positive.

“Perhaps there is some sort of word of mouth to build these titles over time. We’ve seen that with Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire. We were probably a little bit caught off guard by how well Godzilla did,” noted Mitchell, with the franchise title taking over £20m after nine weekends on release, as of May 28.

“The most promising element is that the three top-performing films of the summer we have predicted are yet to open: Inside Out 2, Deadpool & Wolverine and Despicable Me 4,” Mitchell continued, also pointing out Disney’s release of Deadpool & Wolverine will be later in the year than is usual for a Marvel film. 

”It would be standard practice for there to be a Marvel title sat at the end of April, or beginning of May. That has, for as long as I can remember, been the Marvel weekend, certainly since the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe] has been up and kicking. 

“With the MCU only releasing one film this year, because of the schedule changes and delay owing to last year’s strikes, where we should have had Deadpool in that slot we now have it in July. That left a slot that, for all the will in the world, The Fall Guy was never going to fill. It was never going to do MCU level of business.”

Mitchell also pointed out that it would be a Herculean feat for Q2 of this year to match up to levels of last July’s Barbenheimer phenomenon. “The chances of July competing with last year are not strong. But at least we have good titles there.”

Another Q2 2023 film that Mitchell identified as a “huge over-perform” was Universal Pictures’ The Super Mario Bros Movie, that took around £55m in the territory, adding further pressure to this year’s Q2.

“There was an inevitability that this year wouldn’t start as well as last year, just as there was an inevitability that last year was not going to end as well. Last year’s Q4 did not look strong on paper, even before the strikes got pushing things back,” said Mitchell. 

“We’re anticipating a far stronger Q4. Last year, of the top 10 films, only one of them in UK-Ireland came from Q4 – Wonka. Whereas this year, we’re anticipating six titles of the top 10 to be Q4 titles.” Mitchell listed, in no particular order, Gladiator 2 (Paramount), Joker: Folie A Deux (Warner Bros), Mufasa: The Lion King (Disney), Paddington In Peru (Studiocanal), Sonic The Hedgehog 3 (Paramount) and Wicked (Universal), with Venom: The Last Dance (Sony), Moana 2 (Disney) and The Wild Robot (Universal) also showing promise.

“There is an incredibly strong end of year. It’s possible some of them may move – that’s a lot of titles,” he added. “[But] the hope is that there is a fair bit of audience diversity demographic among the spread.”

*BFI admissions data is supplied by the UK Cinema Advertising Association, while gross box office data is supplied by Comscore. The BFI’s box office reporting period extends to April 14, beyond the typical first quarter parameters (end of March), to include additional week’s earnings from films which had releases in the final week of March.