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Friends enjoy benefits at UK box office

Movies about mates are popular as The Inbetweeners holds top spot and Friends With Benefits debuts in second place

The winner

Having experienced consistent and relatively mild week-to-week drops of 34%, 35% and 35%, The Inbetweeners Movie suffers its biggest fall to date, 42% down on the previous weekend. But with £39.43m in the tank so far, no one associated with the film is going to be too disappointed, especially since the homegrown hit once again tops the chart. With four weeks at the top spot, The Inbetweeners Movie shares the winner’s podium with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 for longest run at the chart summit in 2011. Significant blockbusters such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and The Hangover: Part II only managed a week apiece.

The smash comedy is now about £5.6m behind the total achieved by The King’s Speech earlier this year (£45m). At this point, it’s a close call which film will emerge with a bigger lifetime gross.

The new releases

Although failing to nab the top spot with Friends With Benefits, distributor Sony will be happy with an opening gross of £1.95m, including £431,000 in previews. It’s not hard to think of an appropriate comparison for this title, since No Strings Attached appeared with a highly similar premise in February this year. Agents for Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman ought to be mildly concerned that their clients powered the comedy to a UK opening of £979,000, including £153,000 in previews, about half the number achieved by the current Justin Timberlake/Mila Kunis team-up.

Landing one place behind is Jane Eyre, with a solid debut of £1.01m. That’s by no means the top end for a literary period drama (Pride & Prejudice opened with £2.53m), but Charlotte Brontë would always struggle to appeal as broadly as the lightly comedic Jane Austen, and lead actors Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender are unproven in the genre. The number is very much in line with the March 2008 opening of The Other Boleyn Girl (£955,00) from the same trio of partners Ruby Films, BBC Films and Universal Focus. Ruby’s Tamara Drewe, adapted by Jane Eyre screenwriter Moira Buffini, opened the exact same weekend in 2010 with £616,000.

Genre watch

Three new genre movies battled for audiences, the highest-profile being Colombiana, from writer-producer Luc Besson. Moving up from her supporting turns in Avatar and Star Trek, Zoe Saldana toplines the action thriller about a Colombian-born hitwoman avenging her parents’ death. But a relatively weak opening salvo of £424,000 from 332 screens, yielding a lacklustre site average of £1,277, suggests Saldana has yet to build up a strong UK fanbase.

Managing a much better per-location number is Norwegian mockumentary Troll Hunter, about three student film-makers discovering the truth about the country’s containment of its native troll population. With £201,000 from 83 sites (including £23,000 in previews), it’s a decent start for the film, which benefits from a Blair Witch-style high concept, but no recognisable talent.

Entering at a lowly 19th place is British genre flick A Lonely Place to Die, which sees five climbers in the Scottish Highlands become targets for ruthless kidnappers. Opening in a surprisingly wide 222 cinemas, the achieved gross of £112,000 yields a weak average of £504 per location. In the absence of a buzz-generating hook, and with a cast topped by Melissa George and Ed Speleers, it was always hard to see this one commanding a large audience in cinemas. DVD should prove a much happier home.

The flops

While The Smurfs was once again a strong performer, with the gentlest decline (22%) of any film in the top 10, other titles were not so lucky. Apollo 18 crashed nine places to number 17 with a drop of 71% in box-office takings. But US indie drama The Art of Getting By did considerably worse, plunging 88% to weekend takings of just £9,000 from 46 screens. It’s hard to imagine it holding on to many locations from Friday.

The future

Although takings were once again down on the previous frame, they were nevertheless a healthy 18% up on the equivalent weekend from 2010, when Resident Evil: Afterlife and Tamara Drewe were the highest new entries. This Friday, four new wide releases should prove more complementary than competitive. Two are based on existing material: Alison Pearson’s work-life-family-juggling chick-lit I Don’t Know How She Does It, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, and John Le Carré’s spy novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, providing a platform for a feast of British male acting talent. Bodyswap comedy The Change-Up, starring Ryan Reynolds and Justin Bateman, is pitching straight at the centre, while 30 Minutes or Less, with Jesse Eisenberg and Danny McBride, is courting a slightly less-mainstream, younger crowd.

Top 10 films

1. The Inbetweeners Movie, £2,147,393 from 475 sites. Total: £39,431,017

2. Friends With Benefits, £1,947,272 from 432 sites (New)

3. Jane Eyre, £1,012,111 from 422 sites (New)

4. The Smurfs, £817,306 from 418 sites. Total: £14,796,151

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, £701,258 from 383 sites. Total: £19,282,432

6. One Day, £634,807 from 447 sites. Total: £6,652,635

7. Colombiana, £424,049 from 332 sites (New)

8. Final Destination 5, £396,687 from 299 sites. Total: £4,825,126

9. Fright Night, £278,342 from 374 sites. Total: £1,512,699

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, £259,540 from 291 sites. Total: £72,420,336

Other openers

Troll Hunter, £177,847 from 83 screens (+ £22,760 previews)

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, £173,026 from 39 screens

A Lonely Place to Die, £111,570 from 222 screens (+ £13,449 previews)

Kes, £4,586 from 3 screens

Teja Bhai & Family, £3,622 from 8 screens

Post Mortem, £3,326 from 5 screens © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds