EXCLUSIVE: Peter Jackson’s World War I archive movie They Shall Not Grow Old took an impressive non-final £558,000 ($731,000) from 247 screens yesterday on its one night of play in the UK. Reaction has been so positive that the team behind it is now in discussions about international and U.S. release opportunities.
The movie’s strong take, which put it second at the local box office Tuesday, was good enough for a healthy £2,260 per-screen average. As first reported by the Telegraph, the team will now be adding encore screenings in the UK.
Reviews have been excellent for the film, which played last night as part of the London Film Festival with attendees including director Jackson, Prince William and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit star Dominic Monaghan. The Guardian called it “electrifying,” giving it five stars, while The Independent said it was “astonishing.”
Requests have reportedly been streaming in from international press asking how they can see the film, which has been created from footage from the Imperial War Museums’ film collection and audio from BBC archives and is available as a 3D and 2D movie. The BBC will broadcast the film in the UK on Armistice Day, November 11.
The docu employs the voices of veterans together with original archival footage to help bring to life the reality of war on the front line. Footage has been colorized, converted to 3D and transformed with modern production techniques. The Lord of the Rings director said he listened to about 600 hours of interviews for the film.
Jackson directed, and produced with Clare Olssen; the editor is Jabez Olssen (The Hobbit franchise). Jackson’s WingNut Films produced with House Productions exec producing. Trafalgar Releasing (which itself has international distribution capabilities) is handling the UK theatrical release. It was co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts program for the First World War centenary, the BBC and the Imperial War Museums.
Originally intended to be a 30-minute piece, the power of the material and the scope of the subject meant it became a 99-minute feature. The film’s success is another example of the huge appetite for strong docus right now, both on the small and big screens.