The first six months of theatricalbusiness in the UK saw a 5% rise year-on-year thanks largely to a stellarperformance in June. Box office revenues compiled by Nielsen EDI showUK/Ireland figures stood at $728.5m (£393.02m) as of July 1, up from $691.8m (£373.2m)for the same period last year.
The launch of Harry PotterAnd The Prisoner Of Azkaban on May 31 helped June figures improve 56%improvement on June 2003, while March (up 13%) and April (up 10%) were alsostronger. March in particular saw boosts coming from Buena VistaInternational's Starsky & Hutch and Icon Film Distribution's ThePassion Of The Christ.
Potter has quickly become the highest earner of the year sofar (see table, below) and has played a significant role in placing Warner Bros atthe top of the distributor table with a massive 26% market share. Warner hashad a great first half of the year with strong performances also coming from Troy,Scooby-Doo 2 and The Last Samurai.
It has not only been majordistributors seeing strong results, however. Independent distributor Icon FilmDistribution holds a 4.1% market share for the first half of the year thankslargely to Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ which proved Icon'ssecond best performer ever behind 2001 Gibson starrer What Women Want ($32.1m[£17.3m]).
Similarly Momentum Pictureshas performed well, taking a 4% market share, achieved mostly from twotriumphant pick-ups from Focus Features: Lost In Translation and EternalSunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Translation, in particular, gave Momentumits biggest ever earner with £10.1m and finished eleventh on the list of topgrossers for the first half of the year (tenth for those that opened in 2004).
Meanwhile, the second half ofthe year has got off to a resounding start with UIP recording the UK's biggestever three-day weekend over the July 2-4 weekend with Shrek 2 andOptimum Releasing smashing the documentary opening record with Fahrenheit9/11 the following weekend. Shrek 2 has already taken $52.8m(£28.5m) making it the second highest earner of the year after just 10 days onrelease, while Fahrenheit became Optimum's highest ever earner after asingle weekend (including previews).
Warner will look to continueits dominance in the second half of the year with titles like Catwoman(Aug 13), Robert Zemeckis' Polar Express (Dec 10) and StevenSoderbergh's sequel to 2002 hit Ocean's Eleven ($48.9m [£26.4m] in theUK), Ocean's Twelve (Dec 24).
However, other distributorswill give a good fight. BVI has King Arthur (July 30), animated title HomeOn The Range (Aug 6) and M Night Shyamalan's The Village (Aug 20)still to come in the summer while family titles The Princess Diaries 2(Oct 15) and The Incredibles (Nov 26) follow later in the year.
Columbia releases includecomic-book adaptations Spider-Man 2 (July 15), Hellboy (Sep 3)and The Punisher (Sep 24).
Entertainment FilmDistributors also play the comic-book sequel card with Blade: Trinity(Dec 10) which is scheduled to open the same day as another Entertainmentrelease, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom Of The Opera, directed byJoel Schumacher.
Icon will hope to continueits success this year with, among others, The Life And Death Of PeterSellers (Oct 1) - a biopic of the legendary British comic actor.
Pathe's slate includesGurinder Chadha's Bride And Prejudice (Oct 8) and Danny Boyle's Millions(Dec 3).
20th CenturyFox still has Garfield (July 30), I, Robot (Aug 6) and Dodgeball:A True Underdog Story (Aug 20) to come in the summer while Aliens VsPredator (Oct 22) is among those following later in the year.
The biggest competition forWarner's end of year distributor crown will come from UIP. Currently the secondranked distributor of the year UIP already has Shrek 2 doing colossalnumbers in the market. Thunderbirds (July 23), The Stepford Wives(July 30), The Bourne Supremacy (Aug 13) and The Chronicles OfRiddick (Aug 27) all follow before Steven Spielberg's Tom Hanks starrer TheTerminal closes the summer on Sep 3 as schools go back for the winter term.
However even after this thecompany will release US hit Anchorman (Sep 10); sci-fi spectacular SkyCaptain And The World Of Tomorrow (Oct 1); remakes Alfie, starringJude Law, (Oct 22) and The Manchurian Candidate, starring DenzelWashington, (Nov 5); Working Title's romantic comedies Wimbledon (Sep24) and Bridget Jones: Edge Of Reason (Nov 12); as well as the nextanimated film from PDI/DreamWorks, Shark Tale (Oct 15).
Whichever company finishes on top,the heavily competitive schedule for the second six months of the year shouldprove fantastic news for box office revenues. With a positive first six monthsof the year theatrical grosses should once again see a return for theyear-on-year rise after 2003's plateau.
Top Ten Films 2004 - First Six Months
1 Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban (May 31) Warner Bros £40.7m
2 The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (Dec 17, 03)Entertainment £25.6m*
3 The Day After Tomorrow (May 27) 20th Fox £23.2m
4 Troy (May 14) Warner Bros £17.4m
5 Scooby-Doo 2 (Apr 2) Warner Bros £16.4m
6 Van Helsing (May 7) UIP £15.1m
7 Starsky & Hutch (Mar 12) BVI £12.6m
8 The Last Samurai (Jan 9) Warner Bros £11.9m
9 The Passion Of The Christ (Mar 12) Icon Film Dist £10.7m
10 School Of Rock (Feb 6) UIP £10.5m
* Released in 2003, gross shown for period on release in 2004 only.
SOURCE: SCREEN INTERNATIONAL