UK box office admissions were close to flat year-on-year in 2019, clocking 176 million, figures from UK body Cinema First have confirmed.
Admissions were down marginally on 2018’s total of 177 million, which was the highest since 1970. That’s particularly impressive considering takings were almost 25% down in Q1, 2019, on the same period the year before.
Total box office in 2019 was £1,251,836,436 ($1.653bn), compared to £1,277,122,327 ($1.668bn) in 2018.
The recovery was spearheaded by the mega-grossing Avengers: Endgame, which took a huge $115m in the territory, as well as The Lion King ($99m), Toy Story 4 ($83m), and Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, which grossed north of $51m after releasing December 20 and is now up to $72m. Notably, all of those films were Disney releases, with the studio continuing another remarkable year of dominance in the UK.
Disney’s slate may not quite as formidable for 2020, particularly with the notable lack of a Star Wars release (though Rise Of Skywalker grosses have tipped into this year). However, Sam Mendes’ World War I pic 1917 has already found success, contributing to grosses being up 25% over the same opening period in 2019, and the slate for the rest of the year has plenty going for it.
In particular, the next James Bond pic, No Time To Die, should be a significant boost. Daniel Craig’s last outing as the martini-sipping (or non-alcoholic beer sipping) spy is going to provoke major interest, and the two previous films, 2012’s Skyfall and 2015’s Spectre, remain the number two ($161m) and three ($126m) highest-grossing films of all time in the UK.
In 2019, more than 900 films were released in UK cinemas. That means more films than ever are securing theatrical runs, but it often also means the death knell for independent titles, which struggle to secure a meaningful number of cinema screens against studio-backed competition.
Even the larger indie distributors, such as eOne and Studiocanal, face real challenges breaking the studio stranglehold. In 2019, the highest-grossing title not released by the UK wing of a major U.S. studio was eOne’s Stan & Ollie, which placed 27th.