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Fast & Furious 8 barrels past Boss Baby to top of UK box office

Fast & Furious 8

The winner: Fast & Furious 8

It is only the middle of April, but the official summer blockbuster season launched at the weekend, with the screeching of Fast & Furious 8 into 572 cinemas nationwide. With weather by no means as sunny as the previous weekend, conditions were favourable for a strong opening, and backers Universal will be celebrating a stonking debut of £14.03m, including Wednesday and Thursday previews of £5.38m, rising to £16.3m including Easter Monday. Globally, the film launched to $532m, breaking the previous record opening set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($529m).

A closer examination of the numbers reveals a more nuanced picture. In the first place, this isn’t the biggest debut this year at UK cinemas – Disney’s Beauty and the Beast began in mid-March with £19.7m. Nor is it a UK record for the franchise. Fast & Furious 7 kicked off in April 2015 with £12.77m (compared to £8.65m for the latest film, if previews are ignored). Fast & Furious 6 began in May 2013 with £8.72m, just ahead of the Fast & Furious 8 opening weekend number, and achieved with lower ticket prices.

Looking at the UK numbers, it’s evident that the seventh film proved an outlier, with franchise fans flocking to cinemas to bid adieu to deceased star Paul Walker in his F&F swansong. Now grosses in mature markets including the UK are returning to the levels of the sixth movie. Growth is coming from territories such as China, where Fast & Furious 8 opened with an immense $190m. Fast & Furious 9 is set for release in April 2019.

The chasing pack: family films

With a 29% rise in box office on the previous weekend, DreamWorks Animation and distribution partner Fox will be pleased with the second session (£3.62m) of The Boss Baby. Over the past seven days, the film has added a robust £8.71m, for a 16-day total of £16.73m. Easter Monday pushes that tally to a 17-day £18.15m. With many kids now back at school, numbers should drop sharply, but there should still be some life in the title.

Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast continued its phenomenal run, adding another £6.56m over the past seven days for a five-week total of £65m, and £65.9m including Easter Monday. The live-action fairytale musical is now the 10th biggest hit of all time in the UK, ahead of all but one Harry Potter film (Deathly Hallows: Part 2) and all three The Lord of the Rings movies. (These comparisons are not adjusted for inflation.) Next in its sights: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story(£66m).

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While Smurfs: The Lost Village has hardly been a commercial triumph, distributor Sony will be pleased to see box office rising by 16% on the previous frame, taking the total including Easter Monday to £3.87m. In contrast Peppa Pig: My First Cinema Experience fell by 51%. Total including Monday is £2.58m.

Although both based on British literary novels – Julian Barnes’ Booker-winning The Sense of an Ending (2011) and Sarah Waters’ Booker-nominated Fingersmith(2002) – the two new films vying for the UK arthouse audience could hardly be more different. StudioCanal’s The Sense of an Ending, with its cast including Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery and Emily Mortimer, was aimed squarely at the older, upscale audience that embraced the likes of 45 Years. And Curzon’s erotic period drama The Handmaiden, from director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), was skewed towards hipper cineaste film fans, attracted by the director credentials and risque content.

Over the weekend period, the films performed at a similar, successful level – The Sense of an Ending with £325,000 from 107 cinemas for a £3,037 average, and The Handmaiden with £278,000 from 94 sites and a £2,955 average. The latter film’s Secret Cinema X six-day run at London’s Troxy in east London helped it post massive previews totalling £197,000. Including Easter Monday, The Sense of an Ending stands at £421,000 and The Handmaiden at £548,000. The latter is the third arthouse foreign-language film to pass £500,000 so far this year, following Elle (£818,000) and Toni Erdmann (£558,000).

The market

Thanks to the £14m contribution from Fast & Furious 8, takings are a healthy 54% up on the previous frame, and also 45% up on the equivalent weekend from 2016, when The Jungle Book opened strongly at the top of the chart. The coming session should prove notably quieter, as cinemas draw breath while they wait in eager anticipation for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 on 28 April.

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