The Secret Life of Pets repels alien invasion at UK box office

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Family-friendly animation scampers to No 1 ahead of Independence Day: Resurgence, while Elvis & Nixon are all shook up on the indie circuit

The Secret Life of Pets repels alien invasion at UK box office
Biggest animated opening of the year so far … The Secret Life of Pets. Photograph: Universal

The winner: The Secret Life of Pets

Illumination Entertainment, maker of Despicable Me and Minions, has scored another big hit with its latest animated feature, The Secret Life of Pets. The opening weekend gross of £9.58m includes £3.63m from previews the previous Saturday and Sunday. Although the film was accompanied by a Minions short, the Universal-owned animation house will be pleased that these numbers have been achieved by a new property that isn’t a Despicable Me sequel or spinoff.

With or without previews, Pets has delivered the biggest animated opening of the year. Disney’s Zootropolis began with £5.31m including £1.73m in previews. Kung Fu Panda 3 kicked off with £4.77m including £1.59m in previews. Angry Birds started with £2.14m.

As for former Illumination hits, Despicable Me began its run in October 2010 with £3.66m including previews of £205,000. Despicable Me 2 followed three years later with a stunning debut of £14.82m including £4.87m in previews. A year ago, Minions launched with £11.56m.

Warm word of mouth has propelled Zootropolis to £23.65m. Given the stronger start, Universal will surely be hoping to push Pets beyond that tally. No direct competition arrives until Ice Age: Collision and Finding Dory in July.

The runner-up: Independence Day: Resurgence

When Independence Day arrived in US cinemas in July 1996, it set the template for the summer action blockbuster, concentrating Hollywood studio minds on high concepts and spectacle rather than A-list star packages. The following month, it reached UK cinemas, taking an explosive £7.01m, on its way to a final tally of £37.1m.

Belated sequel Independence Day: Resurgence arrives in a different landscape in which there has been no shortage of action blockbusters propelled by high concepts and spectacular visual effects. Its UK opening of £5.07m included previews of £944,000. If previews are included, that’s the ninth biggest debut of the year so far, behind Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (£14.62m), Captain America: Civil War (£14.47m), Deadpool (£13.73m), The Jungle Book (£9.90m), The Secret Life of Pets (£9.58m), X-Men: Apocalypse (£7.35m), Zootropolis (£5.31m) and The Revenant (£5.24m).

Indie movies stumble

Several new releases offered alternatives to the big two blockbusters, and all under performed to varying degrees. Elvis & Nixon starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey recounts an intriguing celebrity meeting, but it was always hard to imagine audiences flocking, especially outside the US. It begins with £57,000 from 107 cinemas, yielding a weak £531 average. But that result is positively joyful when compared with The Meddler, starring Susan Sarandon and Rose Byrne. This film needed to be in indie cinemas to connect with its likeliest audience, but those venues had other choices, and Sony instead released it overwhelmingly in multiplexes, grossing £19,300 from 103 venues.

Including previews, arthouse titles Remainder, Suburra, Adult Life Skills and Ma Ma, rereleases Spirited Away and Poor Cow, and documentaries No Home Movie and Crazy About Tiffany’s grossed £71,000 from 143 cinemas. Meanwhile, existing indie titles suffered some surprisingly big drops, with Tale of Tales, Love & Friendship and When Marnie Was There all falling by more than 50%.

The gravity defier: Me Before You

While most films suffered big falls, Me Before You once again enjoyed the smallest drop of any title in the Top 10, down 32%. Gross after 24 days is a healthy £8.02m. The depressed state of the market beyond the top few titles is underlined by the fact that The Nice Guys saw box office fall by 52%, it yet rose from sixth to fifth place. Weekend takings of £203,000 represent the lowest for any film in the UK Top 5 since May 2013.

Heading in the opposite direction to The Nice Guys is Gods of Egypt, plummeting from third to 11th place, with an 80% drop in box office.

The future

Thanks to the arrival of The Secret Life of Pets and Independence Day: Resurgence, takings are up a welcome 96% on the previous frame. However, they’re down 10% on the equivalent session a year ago, when Minions knocked Jurassic World off the top spot.

Bookers are hoping that Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie will deliver a boost. Female friendship groups are the primary audience, but the early exit of England from Euro 2016 may embolden distributor Fox to position more aggressively for couples. Also in the mix: Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart in Central Intelligence, and Emma Watson and Daniel Brühl in The Colony. Now You See Me 2 follows on 4 July, and The Legend of Tarzan on 6 July.

Top 10 films, 24-26 June

  1. The Secret Life of Pets, £9,580,039 from 592 sites (new)
  2. Independence Day: Resurgence, £5,067,855 from 610 sites (new)
  3. The Conjuring 2, £1,563,015 from 510 sites. Total: £7,735,053
  4. Me Before You, £669,924 from 483 sites. Total: £8,023,271
  5. The Nice Guys, £202,580 from 291 sites. Total: £3,467,375
  6. Alice Through the Looking Glass, £189,077 from 409 sites. Total: £9,395,165
  7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, £185,584 from 384 sites. Total: £5,823,141
  8. X-Men: Apocalypse, £173,187 from 238 sites. Total: £18,120,476
  9. The Jungle Book, £105,258 from 295 sites. Total: £45,629,603
  10. The Boss, £103,033 from 242 sites. Total: £1,603,314

Other openers

  • Elvis & Nixon, £56,790 (including £534 previews) from 107 sites
  • Sardaarji 2, £56,382 from 18 sites
  • The Meddler, £19,327 from 103 sites
  • Remainder, £16,569 (including £7,032 previews) from 21 sites
  • Adult Life Skills, £16,252 (including £875 previews) from 20 sites
  • Spirited Away, £14,298 from 44 sites (reissue)
  • Suburra, £11,321 (including £2,650 previews) from 27 sites
  • Ma Ma, £6,427 from 18 sites
  • Raman Raghav 2.0, £4,650 from nine sites
  • Poor Cow, £4,581 from seven sites (reissue)
  • Ekk Albela, £1,398 from 20 sites
  • Globe On Screen: Richard II, £1,059 from five sites
  • No Home Movie, £908 from two sites
  • Crazy About Tiffany’s, £621 from four sites

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