British Cinemas Set To Break £1B Again

So say distributors and exhibitors, who are confident that 2010’s box office will match last year’s £1 billion total. Last year’s £1,054,351,651 box office total was accompanied by a rise in ticket sales. There were 170 million tickets sold for UK cinemas in 2009 – the best year since 2004’s record-breaking 176 million tickets sold. According to Nielsen EDI, 2009’s box office total was 11% higher than the final tally for 2008. While no single film could compete with the £69 million grossed by Mamma Mia!, Warner Bros’ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was the top performer. It grossed more than £50.7 million. Fox’s Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was in second place at £35 million. Disney’s Up took third with £34.3 million.

Indeed, there seemed to be a better spread of titles in 2009. Richards said that the studios have become aware of not bunching hit movies together during peak school holiday periods. Twenty six of last year’s releases earned more than £10 million through the turnstiles.

However, most of that uplift will come from the extra £2 per ticket that cinema operators are charging for the privilege of watching movies in 3D. The growing number of 3D screens in Britain is expanding the size of the exhibition pot. Although admissions also grew in 2009, they’re expected to fall again this year. One insider told Deadline/London that he expects admissions to drop by three per cent in 2010.

The question is how long audiences will continue seeing cinema in 3D when they’ll increasingly be able to get a similar experience watching 3D television at home. “It’s something that we’re mindful of,” said Empire Cinemas chief executive Justin Ribbons, “but there’s still a perception that 3D creates additional value.” Eighteen 3D films are set for release in 2010. According to Tim Richards, chief executive of cinema chain Vue, 3D isn’t just a fad – it’s something as fundamental to movie-going as sound or colour. Richards said: “It isn’t a novelty; it’s adding another dimension to the experience.” Last year, 14 of the films released in the UK were presented wholly or partly in 3D, grossing £131 million between them – 12% of the box office total.

Meanwhile, hotly anticipated 2010 Hollywood releases in the UK include Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, due to be released on March 5; Warner Bros’ Clash of the Titans (March 26); Universal’s Robin Hood (May 14), Disney’s Prince of Persia (May 21); The Dark Knight-director Christopher Nolan’s Inception (August 13) and the next Harry Potter film on November 19.

“There’s a lot of British involvement in so many of these films, whether through the lead actors or original story material or directors,” said Film Distributors Association chief executive Mark Batey. Or shooting here for that matter. Interesting home-grown films coming up include producer Christopher Colson’s Slumdog Millionaire follow-up Scouting Book for Boys, which Warner Bros/Pathe are releasing on March 5; Kick-Ass, the hotly-anticipated ultraviolent movie from Marv Films (Universal, April 2); The Disappearance of Alice Creed, the second film from producer/distributor CinemaNX (March 12); The Infidel, Revolver’s hot-button comedy about a Muslim who realizes he’s really Jewish (April 23); comedy Mr. Nice (E1 Entertainment, October 8) and Hammer’s remake of cult Swedish vampire film Let Me In (October 29). Also worth mentioning is Vertigo’s May 21 release of Streetdance, which is notable for being the first British indie film to shoot in 3D. Starring Diversity, winners of the latest Britain’s Got Talent, Streetdance is stuffed with hoofers who’ve won one of Simon Cowell’s talent shows as well as Charlotte Rampling.

But it’s next year that’s got Richards and his colleagues really excited. “The climax of the Harry Potter series and the next Bond movie mean that 2011 will be even better,” he predicted.

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