Back in September 2003, Calendar Girls bucked the usual downward trend for cinema grosses by rising 5% on its second weekend of play. Now history repeats, as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is similarly targeted at older cinemagoers, rises by an identical amount in its second frame, with takings of £2.34m, knocking The Woman in Black off the top spot. Thanks also to a solid midweek performance – the audience for this film is so far proving happy to come out any day of the week – it has now achieved a highly impressive £7.01m after just 10 days of play.
By comparison, Calendar Girls stood at £5.68m at this stage of play – although of course ticket prices were significantly lower eight and a half years ago. Calendar Girls ended up with £20.43m. If Marigold Hotel continues along a similar trajectory – and it's too early to say whether that will occur – it will reach £25m-plus. Backers 20th Century Fox would presumably be more than happy simply to match the gross of director John Madden's previous biggest hit, Shakespeare in Love (£20.81m).
The success arrives as a timely boost for Madden. His crime drama Killshot, filmed in late 2005, spent years in limbo, before being released in the US in January 2009, on just five screens. More recently, The Debt also saw its release held up due to the sale of backers Miramax, although it was eventually distributed by Universal, achieving a US gross of $31m and a UK total of £1.53m.
Most of the Marigold Hotel cast members are no strangers to word-of-mouth crowdpleasers. Dev Patel starred in Slumdog Millionaire (£31.66m), Tom Wilkinson in The Full Monty (£52.23m) and Bill Nighy in Love Actually (£36.80m). Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie were both in Calendar Girls. Despite a revenue split that favours cinemas, and marketing costs which must be recouped out of the distributor's revenue portion, Marigold Hotel should eventually emerge as a nice earner for Fox. Production budget is rumoured to be in the £8-9m range.
Marigold Hotel isn't the only holdover title doing excellent business. Despite dropping a place in the chart, The Woman in Black shrugged off the challenge of several new wide releases (see below), declining just 22% for its fourth frame, and lifting its total to £17.63m. That pushes it past The Silence of the Lambs for third place in the all-time UK box-office horror chart, behind just I Am Legend (£25.88m) and Hannibal (£21.58m) – unless you count the three Twilight sequels, which are all in the £27-31m range.
Three new Hollywood offerings, all released on 300-plus screens, landed inside the top 10. Best of the lot is This Means War, which opened with a decent £1.82m, including £300,000 in previews. Reese Witherspoon's last picture Water for Elephants debuted in May 2011 with £1.27m, while her last comedy, How Do You Know, kicked off with a lacklustre £375,000 earlier that year.
This Means War convincingly out-performed rival comedy Wanderlust, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. This latest item from the Judd Apatow factory debuted with a disappointing £491,000, although this is pretty much in line with its recent US opening of $6.5m. It's also slightly better than the first weekend for Aniston and Rudd's previous pairing, 1998's The Object of My Affection: £340,000.
One title that was always tricky to forecast is Project X, a celebration of teenage debauchery from debut director Nima Nourizadeh and producer Todd Phillips (The Hangover). In the US, an opening of $21.05m was very much in the Chronicle ($22m) range. In the UK, perhaps hampered by an 18 certificate, Project X achieved a debut of £562,000, compared with £2.19m (including previews of £617,000) a few weeks ago for Chronicle.
Project X prompted a highly diverse set of critical reactions, as measured by MetaCritic. With a mean score of 48, a majority are either 70 or above, or 30 or below. On both sides of the Atlantic, teens may have bought tickets for other titles and snuck into Project X, inflating the grosses of rival titles at the party flick's expense. In the US, minors may see Project X if accompanied by adults, but this is hardly a picture that teens want to see with their parents.
The Oscar bounce
Following five major Oscar wins the previous Sunday, The Artist saw takings rise by 33% on its tenth week of release, as its screen count broke through the 300 barrier for the first time. With cumulative takings to date of £8.50m, it's the second-biggest grosser of the best picture Oscar nominees, behind War Horse (£18.31m). The Iron Lady, which missed out on a best picture nomination but secured a win for Meryl Streep in the actress category, has reached £9.52m.
For the first time in 2012, weekend takings are up on the equivalent frame from 2011. Cinemas still have a lot of ground to recover, but there will be general relief that a corner has been turned. Of course, a year ago The King's Speech was such a big bonus treat that 2012 was always going to struggle to match first-quarter grosses. This week, Disney will be looking for strong returns for its epic production John Carter, which has the look and scale of a summer blockbuster. Also in the mix are period thriller The Raven, starring John Cusack, and literary adaptation Bel Ami, with Robert Pattinson. Five British pictures of various genres – Payback Season, Trishna, Cleanskin, Hard Boiled Sweets and Decoy Bride – are also competing for audiences.
Top 10 films
1. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, £2,342,095 from 509 sites. Total: £7,014,101
2. The Woman in Black, £1,888,232 from 461 sites. Total: £17,629,443
3. This Means War, £1,821,698 from 451 sites (new)
4. Safe House, £1,316,965 from 428 sites. Total: £4,716,050
5. The Muppets, £1,239,822 from 514 sites. Total: £14,434,872
6. Project X, £561,655 from 332 sites (new)
7. Wanderlust, £490,592 from 371 sites (new)
8. The Artist, £469,369 from 320 sites. Total: £8,496,472
9. Journey 2 the Mysterious Island, £387,435 from 374 sites. Total: £6,231,644
10. The Vow, £264,643 from 266 sites. Total: £5,221,026
London, Paris, New York, 23 sites, £32,640
Hunky Dory, 59 sites, £31,930
Carancho, 9 sites, £18,394
Michael, 14 sites, £13,389
Khodorkovsky, 7 sites £8,747
Paan Singh Tomar, 8 sites, £7,450
Blank City, 2 sites, £2,455
If Not Us, Who?, 2 sites, £1,761
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