Storming the charts with a stonking £8.45m, Bad Neighbours confirms the commercial potency of an appealingly assembled raucous comedy. Not even the fact that a substantial £5.16m of that sum comes from a marathon six days of previews can dent the euphoria the studio must feel.
Among previews-inclusive opening tallies, Bad Neighbours ranks second for 2014, behind The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Going just by Friday-to-Sunday takings of £3.29m, Bad Neighbours is much further down the 2014 league table, behind The Lego Movie, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Wolf of Wall Street.
Among comedies featuring Seth Rogen, Bad Neighbours compares favourably with a £1.59m debut for Knocked Up and £1.45m for Superbad, both from 2007. A year later, Pineapple Express debuted with £1.37m (including £132,000 in previews), and This Is the End kicked off last summer with £1.39m. Even after discounting the hefty previews from Bad Neighbours, it opened with double the takings of those previous Rogen comedies. It's a particular boost for the actor, because he is one of the three lead producers on the film (he was joined by Evan Goldberg, with whom he wrote the likes of Superbad and Pineapple Express).
Moving beyond the pool of titles starring Rogen, 15-rated comedy Ted opened even stronger than Bad Neighbours, with £9.33m (including £3.40m in previews). In 2009, The Hangover kicked off with £3.19m (including £444,000 in previews).
The success of Bad Neighbours may prompt reflection at its backers, going by comments made by Seth Rogen to Variety at the SXSW festival. After Universal bought the pitch in 2011 and Nick Stoller signed on to direct, the film's progress through the executive ranks was slower than anticipated. "It seemed like we were going to enter development hell," said Rogen. "We went into a phone call that we thought was going to be our green light, and we got a bunch of notes. We went back to the studio and said, 'What is the amount of money we can make this for where we stop having these conversations?'" The budget was then chopped in half to $18m. If a film succeeds wildly beyond expectations as a result of studio executives being sidelined in the creative process, it's certainly one for them to ponder.
With previews-inclusive total of Bad Neighbours representing more than all the other films on release put together brought in at the weekend, it's no surprise to see weak numbers among the chasing pack. Sabotage, the only other new title released on more than 200 screens, landed limply in seventh place with £301,000 from 336 sites (including £64,000 in previews).
David Ayer's previous film as director was End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña and Anna Kendrick, which debuted in 2012 with £619,000 (including £26,000 in previews). Sabotage looked to build on that success with an interesting ensemble cast, including Olivia Williams, Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Josh Holloway and Harold Perrineau. Adding Arnold Schwarzenegger to the mix in the starring role may have proved counterproductive, alienating audiences who enjoyed End of Watch.
With a dearth of major new releases (Bad Neighbours technically opened the previous weekend), a number of smaller entrants looked to find niche audiences. Frank, featuring Michael Fassbender in a papier-mache head, was always a hard one to call. In the end, a £203,000 opening from 146 screens feels a tad disappointing, and there will almost certainly be wild variations among individual screen tallies. Given a merely OK site average of £1,389, it's hard not to conclude that the opening roll-out was optimistically wide.
One place behind Frank, but playing on a relatively tight 59 screens, Japanese animation The Wind Rises took a robust £196,000 (including £11,000 in previews). The screen average of £3,383 is the second highest of any film on release. In response, British Film Institute has granted a "sleeper" distribution award to help sustain the marketing momentum and grow the audience – part of BFI's strategy to broaden the choice of non-mainstream films across the UK.
Hayao Miyazaki's last film as director was Ponyo, which debuted in February 2012 with £155,000 from a too-aggressive 221 screens. StudioCanal's decision to scale back distribution for The Wind Rises looks well-advised, although an expansion now looks likely.
The beautiful game
Despite positive reviews and good buzz, a disappointing take for Next Goal Wins (£17,000 from 32 sites, and that's including some previews) confirms the commercial challenge of football-themed documentaries. Back in 2007, the warmly regarded documentary In the Hands of the Gods also benefited from strong pre-release buzz, and it was given generous marketing support from distributor Lionsgate and the UK Film Council. But it opened with a poor £14,000 from 63 cinemas and maxed out at £34,000. The year before, the well-regarded Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos also underperformed, reaching just £35,000.
With its underdog tale of the world's worst international football team, and the seeming Trojan horse of transgender player Jaiyah Saelua, Next Goal Wins seemed to have a chance at crossover success. The failure is going to make UK distributors ever more wary of football-themed titles, although there is always a potential to increase earnings from DVD sales.
Sometimes, slow and steady wins the race. Rio 2 didn't set any box-office records when it debuted with £2.88m in early April. Now, in its sixth week of play, it rises a handy 20% from the previous weekend, moving up to fourth place. Its cumulative total of £13.23m is 4.6 times its opening, and it will soon overtake the £13.56m lifetime tally of the first Rio.
Thanks to the previews-inflated inclusion of Bad Neighbours this time (and its exclusion from tallies the previous weekend), overall the market is a handy 80% up on the previous frame. That statistic is misleading; more telling is to compare the equivalent frame from a year ago, when Star Trek Into Darkness arrived at the top spot: takings are down 4% on that session. Cinema owners are now eagerly anticipating two major films on successive weekends: first Godzilla, arriving on Thursday, and then X-Men: Days of Future Past, landing a week later. Also this weekend: Oscar Isaac, Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst in The Two Faces of January, an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel; In Secret, a new version of Émile Zola's Thérèse Raquin; and assorted small releases.
Top 10 films May 9-11
1. Bad Neighbours, £8,446,240 from 506 sites (new)
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2, £1,286,356 from 483 sites. Total: £22,281,550
3. The Other Woman, £928,788 from 487 sites. Total: £7,121,577
4. Rio 2, £551,655 from 496 sites. Total: £13,289,929
5. Pompeii, £505,186 from 436 sites. Total: £2,230,156
6. Tarzan, £440,643 from 463 sites. Total: £1,611,347
7. Sabotage, £300,521 from 336 sites (new)
8. La Cenerentola: Met Opera live, £285,597 from 169 sites (new)
9. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, £252,908 from 262 sites. Total:
10. Frank, £202,747 from 146 sites (new)
The Wind Rises, £199,598 from 59 sites (including £10,924 previews)
Before the Winter Chill, £32,176 from 21 sites
Next Goal Wins, £17,145 from 32 sites
Advanced Style, £13,280 from nine sites
American Interior, £2,583 from three sites
Silent Sonata, £107 from one site
The Canyons, no figures available
• Thanks to Rentrak