Dumbo soars to the top as Captain Marvel slips at UK box office

The winner: Dumbo

It’s barely a quarter of the way through the year, and Disney has already delivered its fourth UK No 1, as Dumbo follows in the footsteps of Mary Poppins Returns, Glass and Captain Marvel. Tim Burton’s live-action remake of the 1941 animated classic has begun with a solid £6.08m – the second-biggest debut for a release this year, behind Captain Marvel.

It’s a reflection of the expectations heaped on Disney that the Dumbo number might be considered disappointing. After all, the live-action Beauty and the Beast began just over two years ago with £19.7m. And, a year earlier, The Jungle Book swung into action with £9.9m. Still, not all Disney properties are created equal, and Dumbo was never on track to match these numbers. The studio will be hoping for better this year with its remakes of Aladdin and especially The Lion King.

Easter is late this year, and the holiday has yet to begin at most schools. Disney will be hoping for strong and steady play for Dumbo all the way through to Easter Monday. Globally, the film achieved a debut of $119m (£91m).

The arthouse battle: At Eternity’s Gate v Out of Blue

The distribution arms of two of the UK’s most respected arthouse cinema brands went head-to-head with the release of Picturehouse Entertainment’s Out of Blue and Curzon Artificial Eye’s At Eternity’s Gate. The indie titans have rarely clashed in the past, since their cinemas have been happy to play each other’s titles.

But now Picturehouse is insisting on the UK’s full theatrical window of 16 weeks before a film can transition to other platforms. Given Curzon’s strategy of releasing titles simultaneously on Curzon Home Cinema, the two brands are essentially playing by different rulebooks, and Picturehouse is no longer screening Curzon films. As Curzon serviced its own and other independent cinemas with At Eternity’s Gate, Julian Schnabel’s Van Gogh biopic, Picturehouse provided content for its own (and other) venues with Out of Blue, Carol Morley’s contemporary noir. Many leading independent cinemas in cities such as Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Belfast, Sheffield and Bristol played both films.

At Eternity’s Gate grossed £56,300 from 34 cinemas (£58,800 including previews), while Out of Blue took £40,100 from 46 cinemas (£70,000 including previews). Morley completed an extensive Q&A tour, boosting the Out of Blue previews total. Both films were competing with Ralph Fiennes’ Rudolf Nureyev drama The White Crow, still the top arthouse title on release. Its total is £661,000 after 10 days.

Curzon Artificial Eye and Picturehouse Entertainment go head-to-head again on 3 May with, respectively, Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux and Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War. Both premiered at Cannes last year.

The also-rans: Eaten By Lions and Lords of Chaos

While At Eternity’s Gate and Out of Blue both had a clear target of traditional and older-skewing arthouse fans, the path was less clear for British indie comedy Eaten by Lions and Jonas Akerlund’s Lords of Chaos, which tells the grisly story of Norway’s 90s black metal scene. Both struggled to find berths at indie cinemas, but multiplex success typically requires a more powerfully supported release than either film had.

Of the two, Eaten by Lions did better, scoring well in some cinemas in the north-west, where it’s set. UK debut is £31,900 from 93 sites, including negligible previews. Lords of Chaos began with £17,300 from 88 venues (£23,200 including previews).

The market

Despite the arrival of Dumbo, the overall market is a troubling 37% down on the equivalent weekend from 2018, when Ready Player One arrived to join a robust Peter Rabbit. This means that four of the five March weekends this year were down on 2018 – and 11 out of 13 weekends are down for the year so far. Cinema operators will be hoping that the Easter holiday can help start to the recovery, and DC Comics’ Shazam! should lead the charge among new releases. Stephen King adaptation Pet Sematary is also in contention, while alternatives include Laika animation Missing Link, Jacques Audiard western The Sisters Brothers and the infant-addicting Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun.

Top 10 films, 29-31 March

1. Dumbo, £6,076,779 from 666 sites (new)

2. Captain Marvel, £1,770,433 from 599 sites. Total: £32,490,765 (four weeks)

3. Us, £1,692,205 from 589 sites. Total: £6,080,520 (two weeks)

4. Fisherman’s Friends, £629,247 from 527 sites. Total: £4,842,734 (three weeks)

5. What Men Want, £300,641 from 391 sites. Total: £2,438,028 (three weeks)

6. Fighting With My Family, £188,930 from 339 sites. Total: £5,569,471 (five weeks)

7. Die Walkure – Met Opera, £176,278 from 205 sites (new)

8. Lucifer, £147,682 from 89 sites (new)

9. The White Crow, £143,585 from 139 sites. Total: £661,296 (two weeks)

10. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, £140,519 from 490 sites. Total: £18,193,585 (eight weeks)

Other openers

Out of Blue, £70,039 (including £29,911 previews) from 46 sites

At Eternity’s Gate, £58,843 (including £2,570 previews) from 34 sites

Eaten by Lions, £31,896 (including £1,230 previews) from 93 sites

Lords of Chaos, £23,203 (including £5,857 previews) from 88 sites

Being Frank: The Chris Sievy Story, £21,390 (including £13,285 previews) from 24 sites

The Man Who Wanted to Fly, £9,804 from five sites

Notebook, £9,150 from 18 sites

3 Faces, £7,304 from 11 sites

The Vanishing, £6,864 from 23 sites

Airaa, £4,770 from five sites

Trezvyy Voditel, £2,591 from seven sites

Winterlong, £1,917 from one site

The Foundation of Criminal Excellence, £1,466 from 14 sites

Rabb Da Radio 2, £479 from one site (Ireland only)

Super Deluxe, £377 from three sites

Thanks to Comscore. All figures relate to takings in UK and Ireland cinemas.

Charles Gant adds: This is my last UK box office report for the Guardian after an epic 10-year run. Huge thanks to my editors, and to everyone who read the column and commented and joined the debate. You can find me on Twitter at @charlesgant.


Leave a Reply