March 2, 2016

Grimsby sickens but fails to gross as Deadpool continues heroics at the UK box office

Charles Gant / The Guardian

The disappointment: Grimsby

With its traditionally scripted set-up, extreme gross-out humour and lampooning of beery lad culture that hardly qualifies as innovative, Grimsby was never likely to endear itself to critics as much as past Sacha Baron Cohen triumphs such as Borat. But he has always been pretty reliable at the UK box office, with even the so-so offering The Dictator taking £11.4m. Grimsby contains at least one rather remarkable talking-point scene, unfolding inside an elephant’s vagina, which you would imagine would help the film achieve audience traction.

Grimsby’s debut of £1.93m, including Wednesday/Thursday previews of £441,000, will be viewed as disappointing. The Dictator began with £4.96m including previews of £1.54m in 2012. Other Baron Cohen films are less aptly compared, since they benefited from established characters, but Bruno opened in July 2009 with exactly £5m, without benefit of a previews boost, while Borat, the comedian’s biggest UK hit with a £24.15m total, began in November 2006 with £6.24m including £910,000 in previews.

The winner: Deadpool

Despite falling 48% in its third frame, Deadpool had no trouble resisting the challenge of Grimsby, retaining the chart crown with takings of £2.99m. Its total after 19 days is a healthy £31.15m. That’s higher than all the X-Men and Wolverine films (the franchise’s best performer, Days of Future Past, took £27.3m). It’s better than Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films (£29m and £26.7m lifetime), and is closing in on Spider-Man 3’s £33.6m. Deadpool’s number is well ahead of the first two Iron Man films (£17.4m and £21.2m respectively), and distributor Fox will be hoping it can eventually catch Iron Man 3 (£37m). These comparisons are not adjusted for ticket price inflation.

Ryan Reynolds’ previous attempt at a comic book superhero franchise, Green Lantern, self-destructed with a poor £6.19m here. Deadpool has already achieved five times that film’s UK box-office.

Star Wars exits

Falling out of the UK top 10 in its 11th week of play, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has now reached an astonishing £122.6m. In 2012, Skyfall become the first film to crack £100m at UK cinemas (with £103.2m), and, after Spectre fell short with £94.7m, it remained the only one to achieve this feat until the arrival of the latest Star Wars.

The Force Awakens is now running 19% ahead of Skyfall, and Disney could conceivably squeeze a bit more life out of the film in the Easter holidays. The earliest possible DVD release date, respecting the 16.5-week theatrical window required by the multiplex chains in the UK, is 11 April.

The foreign language hit: Rams

Excluding Bollywood titles, no foreign-language film managed £1m at the UK box office in 2015, and only three cracked £300,000: Wild Tales, Force Majeure and Timbuktu. This led to a lot of despondency in the indie distribution and exhibition sectors, a discouragement for future risk-taking. So the current success of Rams – an Icelandic film about two mutually antipathetic sheep-farmer brothers from a director with no name recognition here – is all the more heartening.

Rams was released here three weeks ago with a debut of £26,900 from 20 cinemas – hardly a number that suggested Grímur Hákonarson’s film would go on to become a breakout art house hit. In fact, Rams benefited from only limited showtimes at most of its venues (a programming strategy that might be seen as either timid or realistic depending on your point of view) and so the opening site average of £1,343 was not bad.

Two curmudgeonly sheep farmers are faced with the destruction of their flock in rural Iceland, in a delicate film hovering between absurdity and tragedy

The film’s distributor, Soda, was able to expand Rams for its second weekend, and again for its third, and held on to 24 cinemas for the fourth frame. Box office is now at £180,000, which is a healthy 6.7 times the opening number. Only eight non-Bollywood foreign-language films grossed more than that last year, and that’s including Gemma Bovery, which was partly in English. Rams will have no problem cracking £200,000 here, and it remains to be seen how far Soda can extend the run, building on warm audience buzz for the title. So far, it’s played in 60 UK and Ireland cinemas, and a further 71 have booked it for the future.