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The Inbetweeners Movie proves the Brits have pulling power

The lads’ comedy joins fellow British films Deathly Hallows 2 and The King’s Speech to become the UK’s third biggest hit of 2011. But there’s a weak debut for new Brit on the block, Kill List

The winner

Another seven days, another £7m for The Inbetweeners Movie, as its cumulative UK total reaches just shy of £35m, leapfrogging both Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Hangover: Part II to become the third biggest hit of 2011. This unexpected turn of events means that all three of the year’s biggest hits are British: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (£71.9m), The King’s Speech (£45.0m) and now The Inbetweeners Movie. And although, of course, Potter is fully financed by Hollywood studio Warners, the other two films are independent productions.

While it’s possible that this event is not wholly unprecedented, 2011 certainly represents the strongest year for British cinema in a very long time. Potter, a strongly revived Bond and Working Title comedies mean that every year in the past decade has witnessed at least one big British hit, but in recent years those films have shared the limelight with the likes of Toy Story 3, Alice in Wonderland, Avatar and Ice Age III. In 2008, the top three films were UK-US productions – Mamma Mia!, Quantum of Solace and The Dark Knight – but that was as good is it got, until now. And the further back you go, the more US-dominated it was: in 1992, for example, the top hits were Basic Instinct, Hook, Lethal Weapon 3, Batman Returns, Cape Fear, Beauty and the Beast, Wayne’s World, Home Alone 2, My Girl and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. A year later they were Jurassic Park, The Bodyguard, The Fugitive, Indecent Proposal, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Sleepless in Seattle, Cliffhanger, A Few Good Men, Aladdin and a re-release of The Jungle Book. Don’t believe anyone who tells you our cinemas today have never been more dominated by Hollywood fare.

The question for The Inbetweeners Movie is how far it can get to. After three weekends of play, The Hangover: Part II had reached £26.5m of its eventual £32.8m total. If The Inbetweeners follows a similar curve, it will reach £43m. Its chief problem is that teens are now back at school, so weekday takings will dip significantly.

The Asian battle

With religious holiday Eid this year falling on a Wednesday (Orange Wednesday, in cinema speak), several distributors chose to release major films on the date, notably Bodyguard. Recently a film of the same name in the southern Indian Malayalam language, and again in Tamil, it’s now a full-on Hindi action romantic comedy musical, toplined by Bollywood megastar Salman Khan. The opening five-day weekend of £840,000 is the second biggest ever for a Bollywood film, behind only Shah Rukh Khan starrer My Name Is Khan, which debuted with £936,000 (also including previews) back in February 2010.

Also out for Eid were Tamil film Mankatha and Pakistan’s Bol, grossing £110,000 and £93,000 respectively, including previews. All three titles posted healthy averages thanks to relatively low screen counts, and Bodyguard at Birmingham Vue Star City was the top engagement of the whole market, followed by the same film at Cineworld Ilford. The Inbetweeners Movie at Showcase Bluewater came third, followed by Bodyguard at Cineworld Feltham.

The newbies

For whatever reason, the 2 September date did not attract a major Hollywood release, and so the top end of the chart remains dominated by holdover titles. Best of the new bunch is Fright Night, starring Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell, although an opening gross of £680,000 from 411 screens won’t see anyone performing cartwheels. One place below is Apollo 18, with £491,000 from 358 screens. The distribution strategy was to shroud the film in as much mystery as possible, but there’s a fine line between creating intrigue through withholding information and not giving cinemagoers a reason to care.

But numbers for these two releases look positively muscular compared to The Art of Getting By, a US indie teen flick starring Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts. Released on an optimistic 126 screens, the film achieved an average of just £600 thanks to its weekend gross of £76,000. Britain’s own Kill List did better, with £88,000 from 47 sites, yielding an average (£1,873) that’s ahead of the numbers posted by both Fright Night and Apollo 18. But given a screen count below 50, you’d expect a screen average of at least £2,000 for the opening weekend, so the much-buzzed Ben Wheatley film is underperforming so far. The graphic violence may be a stumbling block for some portions of the audience.

The plucky survivor

While One Day saw the gentlest fall of any film in the top 10 (down 28%), The Smurfs gave the romantic drama a run for its money with a similarly modest drop of 29%. The live-action/animation hybrid has now posted four consecutive weekends at £1m-plus, a feat that was not achieved this summer by either Kung Fu Panda 2 or Cars 2. Those two animations currently lead the season’s family film league table with £16.6m and £15.1m respectively, but with £13.5m already, The Smurfs could eventually emerge top dog.

The future

Thanks to a dearth of strong new releases, takings overall fell 30% from the previous weekend, but were nevertheless 37% up on the equivalent frame from 2010, when The Last Exorcism and Dinner for Schmucks were the top new releases. Grosses may pick up a bit this weekend with the arrival of Friends With Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake, plus Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska in the new Jane Eyre, as well as Zoe Saldana in Luc Besson-produced action flick Colombiana. Genre audiences are well served, since there’s also Troll Hunter, from Norway, and Britain’s own A Lonely Place to Die.


Top 10 films (2-4 September)

1. The Inbetweeners Movie, £3,679,555 from 486 sites. Total: £34,992,321

2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, £1,083,091 from 432 sites. Total: £17,931,402

3. One Day, £1,048,343 from 443 sites. Total: £4,994,696

4. The Smurfs, £1,043,353 from 421 sites. Total: £13,524,429

5. Bodyguard, £839,695 from 51 sites (New)

6. Final Destination 5, £815,216 from 396 sites. Total: £3,807,664

7. Fright Night, £680,543 from 411 sites (New)

8. Apollo 18, £490,746 from 358 sites (New)

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, £454,862 from 331 sites. Total: £71,868,540

10. Cowboys & Aliens, £401,751 from 321 sites. Total: £4,862,921

Other openers

Kill List, £87,136 from 47 screens (+ £979 previews)

The Art of Getting By, £75,878 from 126 screens

Mankatha, £68,131 from 16 screens (+ £42,252 previews)

Bol, £57,282 from 23 screens (+ £36,008 previews)

3D Sex & Zen Extreme Ecstasy, £19,218 from 19 screens

Days of Heaven, £17,849 from 8 screens

Anchor Baby, £10,733 from 5 screens (+ £1,825 previews)

The Hedgehog, £6,135 from 7 screens (+ £230 previews)

Attenberg, £4,282 from 4 screens

Self Made, £3,167 from 10 screens

Weekender, £2,067 from 12 screens

Robotropolis, £73 from 1 screen © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds