Friday, 31 March 2017

Reflecting on Q1: Hollywood's Early Year Successes and Signs


It is difficult to fathom that we are already a quarter of the way through 2017; it only feels like yesterday that I was compiling my year end lists. Three months into the year and we have already seen our fair share of box offices rags and riches. Everything from Oscar contenders to superhero pictures, blockbuster hopefuls and horror fare have graced our screens, so what better time to kick off a four-part introspective, arriving every three months, to examine the crowd of pictures in bite-sized chunks. All of this will be based on UK releases, in case you are questioning why films are cropping up in years they supposedly shouldn't be cropping up.

Without further ado, Reflecting on Q1: Hollywood's Early Year Successes and Signs...

As with every year at the UK box office, Q1 was somewhat dominated by Award Season hopefuls as they began their international rollout (most of which debuted in the later months of 2016 in the US). The 89th Academy Awards will always be remembered for that cock-up, but we shouldn't forget that it actually delivered one of the strongest Best Picture fields in recent memory. La La Land, the supposed frontrunner who had the prestigious prize handed to them before being snatched away moments later, became even more of a success in the UK than it was in the USA, with audiences singing and dancing with the film to over $37 million in box office receipts - a huge, huge total that saw it become the biggest film of the year until the very final days of Q1. Moonlight greatly benefitted from its eventual Best Picture win, approaching a noteworthy $5 million total that marks a real turning point in LGBT cinema. While these two films were the clear front-runners all season long, they were not the only films using their award season goodwill to their advantage; Lion, despite my relative indifference to the drama, has scooped up a very impressive $14 million-and-counting and has outlasted every other award contender; Hidden Figures ($7.1 million), Hacksaw Ridge ($6.1 million), Jackie ($3.7 million), Manchester By The Sea ($2.8 million) and Fences ($2.1 million) are all winners to varying degrees, mounting to a very sturdy Q1 at the box office, a very impressive award season haul and some new entries on my all-time favourites list. It's not all that rosy though, as contenders that never were stumbled out of the gate, as my least favourite flick of the year so far, Gold ($500k), learnt. Loving ($1 millionand Silence ($1.8 million) underwhelmed but found fans while Patriots Day just about saved face with north of $2 million. Oh, and A Monster Calls, which deserved ALL the awards and has planted itself as my number two film of the year so far, managed $3.5 million - decent, but deserving of so much more.

With less of a success consensus, the horror genre has had a rocky road so far; the highs have been incredible high and the lows have been very low so far. Blumhouse's Split and Get Out have ruled the fort, winning over critics and audiences spectacularly. In only two weeks, Get Out has scored a tremendous $6.1 million and continues a hold at unprecedented levels for a horror film, both here and abroad, capturing a zeitgeist that ensure it will go down as the horror film of a generation. Split has generated an insane $14 million to date, with the James McAvoy chiller potentially holding off Get Out on a commercial front thus far. Everything else has been pretty damn poor though; the promising A Cure For Wellness left cinemas before I could catch it and didn't come along with the most glowing of reviews while The Bye Bye Man left before we could even say hello. Rings was dead-on-arrival too, barely scraping $2.3 million despite the attached brand and positioning as a sequel to a cult hit, years in the making. Life, which infuses science-fiction into its premise, has only just landed in cinemas so it would be unfair to write a death sentence, but things aren't looking promising. Overall, its been rather hit-and-miss with the horror genre. And on slightly different but relevant footing, John Wick: Chapter 2, was a rare case of the sequel outperforming its predecessor, discovering a terrific $7.3 million in the criminal underworld and has been the only real action-thriller offering so far.

As the summer blockbuster window widens, the hopefuls have already started cropping up. Logan, the final instalment in The Wolverine series is an entirely new spin on the superhero genre, but has won audiences over with a tremendous $27 million to date and rising, certifying itself as the highest-grosser of the series over here. Kong: Skull Island, arriving on the back of that superhero smash, has registered $16.5 million thus far with room to grow into $20 million if it can last until Easter and against the fierce competition. Fifty Shades Darker failed to perform in line with the original but it wasn't really expected to either, with the sequel still scoring an impressive $28 million. XXX: The Return of Xander Cage and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, although on the smaller side, haven't quite mustered headline figures, managing $4.4 and $1.1, respectively. Kids spin-off The Lego Batman Movie is a $32 million success with the holidays around the corner, meaning it may be able to break $35 million when it eventually wraps up and Sing proved to be solid entertainment across February with $34 million. Power Rangers looks promising if unspectacular after just one week in full play while Ghost in the Shell arrives today, so expect this article to be updated when the numbers roll in - although it is forecast to deliver decent if unspectacular digits.

Q1's number one performer though, snatching away the top position from La La Land just a few days (what does that remind you of, eh?) is Disney's live-action adaptation of Beauty & The Beast, with its eyes firmly set on becoming one of the UK's highest-grossing films of all time. Breaking records left, right and centre, the fairtytale-musical has a jaw-dropping $49 million, well on its way to becoming one of Disney's biggest wins of all time. In terms of year-end, this will almost certainly end up in the top three of the year, if not number one - depending on how Star Wars 8 performs and how long Beauty can leg it over the coming weeks as more competition enters the marketplace (I can't see The Boss Baby providing too much of a threat though...).

March 2017 has been the busiest March for cinema admission this century (defined pretty much by the insane performance of Beauty & The Beast), in turn causing Q1 to become the second-biggest Q1 of the century, with over 47 million admissions in the first three months of the year alone. For once, we have seen notably very few glaring failures thus far and a fair few successes that Hollywood will hope to perpetuate in the remaining nine months (although I'm sure the roads ahead will be far bumpier). This article will be updated as more numbers come flooding in over the coming weeks and it is not an exhaustive list - there are a number of releases I could simply not fit in the list that have played their part in delivering the strongest Q1s commercially in years - but I've made a point of naming the big players. Join me this time in June, where we will have seen a whole flood of family-friendly blockbusters (including Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Pirates 5 and Wonder Woman) as well as more kid-centric releases (Cars 3, Smurfs: The Lost Village and Despicable Me 3) and adult-favouring content (Alien: Covenant, The Fate of the Furious and Baywatch).

Enjoy the films!

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