top gun matilda

Source: Paramount / Sony

‘Top Gun: Maverick’, ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical’

Total box office revenue for the UK and Ireland in 2022 was up 64% on 2021 to £978m; but still 28% down on the £1.35bn total from 2019, the last full pre-pandemic year.

In a promising sign of the theatrical recovery, 911 new releases played in cinemas last year – up on 503 from 2021, and returning towards the peak of 938 in 2019.

However, blockbuster numbers are still down, in large part due to production delays caused by the pandemic. There were 135 wide releases (defined as opening in 250+ cinemas) in 2022, down from 186 in 2019. Average revenue for each wide release was £6.4m in 2022, down from £6.9m in 2019; should the number of wide releases return to pre-pandemic levels, it would add £325m-£350m to the annual box office total.

Final admissions figures for 2022 are not yet available, but are likely to exceed 125m, up over 56% from 80m in 2021. This represents a positive trajectory, especially given that Covid-19 restrictions were still in place until late February 2022, due to the Omicron variant.

Pre-pandemic annual box office exceeded £1.3bn in each of the five years up to and including 2019. Analytics firm Comscore Movies, which provided the figures, anticipates a recovery to those levels by 2024.

The Republic of Ireland saw the strongest recovery of the five nations making up the UK-Ireland territory, with a box office total 89% higher than 2021. This was partly due to particularly strict restrictions in Ireland in winter 2021. Northern Ireland box office rose by 73% in 2022, with Scotland up 68%, Wales up 63% and England up 61%.

The 2022 date range runs from Friday, January 7 2022 to Thursday, January 5 2023, encompassing 52 full weeks.

Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick led the way in contribution over this time, with £83.6m; followed by Disney’s Avatar: The Way Of Water, which only released on December 16, 2022 and is already up to £51.4m.

Disney had four of the top 10 titles, with Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness (£42m), Thor: Love And Thunder (£37.4m) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (£33.6m and counting) also on the list

Universal was next with three films: Minions: The Rise Of Gru (£46.9m), Jurassic World: Dominion (£35.1m) and Sing 2 (£32.9m). Warner Bros rounded out the top 10 with The Batman (£40.7m) and Elvis (£27.6m).

The top 10 titles accounted for 43.8% of the total revenue for 2022. 

Disney, Matilda thrive

Disney came out as the number one distributor overall with £221.8m (22.7% of the market), just pipping Universal’s £219.3m (22.4%).

136 distributors released films, with the top 10 distributors accounting for 93.6% of the total – a drop towards normal levels following 2021’s high of 25.7%.

Sony’s Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical was the highest-grossing British or Irish film of the year, taking £22.7m and still on release - a notable result in the only territory where the film was released wide in cinemas (it went straight to Netflix in most countries). It was followed by Universal’s Belfast with £15.6m and Downton Abbey: A New Era with £15.1m. 

Prima Facie – NT Live, an event cinema release of the one-woman play starring Jodie Comer, also broke into the top 10 UK-Irish titles, taking £5.4m across its run for National Theatre Live.

“While there remain challenges ahead, 2022 represented for our members a significant further step on the road to recovery after the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” said Phil Clapp, CEO of the UK Cinema Association. “The response of audiences to a broad range of titles, the support of distribution colleagues and the strong slate already in prospect for 2023 and beyond mean that we can all look to the future with renewed confidence.”

“2022’s box office results were another strong marker for sector recovery, and with an impressive and diverse release slate lined up for cinemas across the whole year, 2023 should continue that upward trajectory,” added Andy Leyshon, CEO of the Film Distributors’ Association. “Distributors and exhibitors will continue to work together to deliver cinemagoers the best out-of-home experience and we are now on the right track to recapturing those territory box office highs witnessed before the pandemic.”