Here is the Top 10 for the weekends takings, previous weeks placements are in parentheses.
1. The Woman in Black. Weekend/Total: £3,153,020 Sites: 412 (New)
2. The Muppets. Weekend/Total: £2,650,664 Sites: 534 (New)
3. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace 3D. Weekend/Total: £1,528,156 Sites: 369 (New)
4. The Vow. Weekend/Total: £1,091,469 Sites: 319 (New)
5. Chronicle. Weekend/Total: £1,024,583 / £4,055,680 Sites:397 (1)
6. Journey 2 The Mysterious Island. Weekend/Total: £902,857 / £2,419,809 Sites: 445 (2)
7. The Descendants. Weekend/Total: £743,017 / £5,698,448 Sites: 346 (3)
8. War Horse. Weekend/Total: £580,984 / £16,456,011 Sites: 370 (4)
9. Jack and Jill. Weekend/Total: £521,925 / £1,730,153 Sites: 332 (5)
10. Man on a Ledge. Weekend/Total: £419,979 / £1,609,137 Sites: 351 (6)
THE WOMAN IN BLACK, SCARING UP GOOD BUSINESS
As predicted, The Woman in Black won the weekend with an impressive £3.15m opening weekend. The recent track record of spook-centric horror with lower age certificates, paired with the film marking Daniel Radcliffe's first major role since the end of the Harry Potter saga, guaranteed a successful opening.
Marketing has been substantial for the Hammer Horror release; trailers attached to all age appropriate films released this year and posters focusing entirely on Radcliffe's presence, specifically targeted teen audiences, many of which grew up with Harry Potter during its 10+ year reign over pop culture. The film did not rely solely on the lure of Daniel Radcliffe to win audiences, The Woman in Black had its own in-built audience from the hugely successful book and equally successful play.
Given that we are in the middle of Half-Term, where the target audience are free to attend screenings throughout the day, I would fully expect the film's box office to continue its impressive trend. Half-Term runs have recently helped kick The Inbetweeners Movie into its chart-topping haul, so expect to see The Woman in Black's total B.O. rise substantially by next week.
A MOST SENSATIONAL, INSPIRATIONAL, CELEBRATIONAL, MUPPETATIONAL OPENING.
Despite competing against a genre that is historically successful on opening weekends, The Muppets hit the #2 spot with an equally impressive £2.65m opening.
The last time The Muppets crazed presence graced the big screen was in 1999's disappointing Muppets from Space, so the child audience that the film needs to bring in to guarantee a healthy box office run were barely a twinkle in their parents' eyes when The Muppets last had any sway in popular culture.
Parents eager to share their childhood favourites with their own kids and childless adults will help contribute to the film's success and Half-Term will allow families more opportunities to catch up with the film, so, as with The Woman in Black, expect the numbers to stay strong next week. After that the question will become: Are children responding to The Muppets strong enough to make it a real success?
The Smurfs had a remarkable hold on the UK box office which, aside from its impressive £3.75m opening, managed to have a top 10 box office weekends from August 12th 2011 until September 11th. Of course, the little blue devils had the benefit of the Summer Holidays whereas The Muppets only have a week to make the most of their available audience.
Adult audiences are certainly interested but, if the generational split in reactions at my screening were anything to go by, are younger audiences excited enough to keep this film charting? If their numbers begin to drop off, perhaps it will be down to the young-at-heart to keep the movie going. I'm game, if you are.
AND THE REST...
A big week for opening films, with all the major releases getting spots at the top half of the charts. The other big openers were Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace 3D and The Vow.
The Phantom Menace 3D opened to £1.53m (including Thursday previews of £228,000) which is a decent showing for the 3D only reissue of the most reviled entry in the franchise, one widely available on DVD or Blu Ray for some time now. Younger audiences fortunate enough to not exist during the film's initial release in 1999 get their chance to experience the film on the big screen.
Fewer showed up when compared to the £2.75m opening for The Lion King 3D (October 7th - 9th), although Disney's 3D re-release opened on a less competitive weekend. Half-Term, once again, will probably sustain The Phantom Menace's numbers for the week.
The Channing Tatum/Rachel McAdams romantic drama, The Vow, opened to £1.09m but, despite being more of a niche audience than horror and family fare, will undoubtedly see a nice boost with Valentine's Day and Half-Term.
Last weeks chart-topper, Chronicle, dropped down to fifth place by losing over half of its previous earnings. This is likely due to the core audience being split between the four other new releases this week, had this been a slow weekend I am sure Chronicle could have held bigger numbers.
Following Chronicle's four spot drop, the rest of the chart is an exact replica of last weeks top six. Journey 2 retained more of its audience, while also gaining screenings over last week, while Chronicle held the same number.
Awards friendly releases The Descendants and War Horse continued to perform well, especially impressive for War Horse after five weeks on the chart. Audience interest in Man on a Ledge, as well as Jack and Jill, have taken a drop. Is it time for people to admit that Sam Worthington cannot win audiences without an over-abundance of CGI to back him up? He must be counting down the days until Wrath of the Titans opens.
The Artist, meanwhile, slips off the Top 10 into 11th place with a £5.87m total. The BAFTA sweep, combined with the release rolling out into fresh markets every week, could give the silent film homage a boost, despite being a tougher sell to audiences than, say, The King's Speech. If that doesn't help, perhaps the inevitable Oscar sweep on February 26th will back it up.
SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND...
A slow opening weekend ahead for us, with only Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close opening. I have to be honest, I don't fancy their chances against the top two of this week. One is a Nic Cage sequel that nobody asked for, and the other has been promoted heavily as maudlin grief-porn for people who still can't come to terms with 9/11.
The original Ghost Rider opened to the tune of £1,851,897 but steadily dropped off from there. The sequel has the benefit of being released in both 2D and 3D, so any interest in the film will be given an extra bump.
Extremely Loud director Stephen Daldry's box office track record is as follows: Billy Elliot, his critically acclaimed debut, opened to £1.54m on October 1st, with a £3m jump in its second week and sailed along on £2m+ for the following weekends, before leveling out to £1m+. Its total box office was £16,972,531.
Daldry's follow-up and fellow Oscar contender, The Hours, opened during the same time slot as Extremely Incredible and only mustered a £616,573 opening weekend with a limited release window of roughly eight weeks, giving it a total of £4,311,523. Holocaust bait, The Reader, followed a similar fate with an opening of £671,064 and a total of £5,371,138. Considering the subject of Loudly Close, I expect this trend to continue, despite the added star power of Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
Out of the two releases, count on Ghost Rider to rank highest, but it would be a genuine surprise if Nic Cage could out-sell Daniel Radcliffe or Kermit.