Planet Uckfield

"What do you mean we're number one!?"

When box office results are published on a Monday morning it often comes as quite a shock just how out of step we can be with the rest of country.

It was becoming increasingly clear over the last couple of weeks that booking Disney’s expensive effects bonanza John Carter was a mistake.

Although booking Bel Ami was an even bigger mistake. There are times when I really shouldn’t be left in charge.

Sure enough the weekend business was appalling, although I’m not entirely sure why. The weather didn’t help admittedly, it was gloriously springlike. SFX magazine has a rather good analysis of the broader situation here.

Imagine my surprise when the numbers came out Monday and John Carter was number one at the box office. Wait, what?

Here is Charles Gant’s excellent weekly blog in the Guardian that dissects the weekend figures. Charles understands the business very well and writes with rare authority about the UK box office. When my bank manager is trying to understand why there’s no money coming in during the quiet times, I always point him in the direction of Charles’ Guardian blog.

So here is the UK top five for the weekend of Friday 9th March 2012:

1. John Carter, £1,960,414 from 456 sites (New)

2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, £1,787,352 from 499 sites. Total: £10,855,596

3. The Woman in Black, £1,131,402 from 435 sites. Total: £19,485,541

4. This Means War, £1,017,075 from 439 sites . Total: £3,591,896

5. Safe House, £774,745 from 382 sites. Total: £6,131,580

Yep, there it is. Top film.

Now consider this, we sold 122 tickets for John Carter over eleven shows in three days. Terrible. Marigold Hotel, however, sold 1200 tickets. Ten times the number.

How can we be that far adrift of the rest of the nation? Is Uckfield and it’s surrounding area really that much different from everywhere else?

Even allowing for the slight bump from 3D that John Carter had (we didn’t bother with poxy 3D) it doesn’t explain such a disparity.

We were always going to punch way above our weight on Marigold I understand that, but john Carter should really have done better if Disney’s figures are to be believed.

Bel Ami was a stinker everywhere, so our figures were about right. Which actually came as a relief perversely.

It’s going to be up there with our worst grossers of all time. The only way it could have taken less money is if Adam Sandler had been in it.

18 thoughts on “Planet Uckfield

  1. We had to go to Crawley last night to see The Raven. Would have come to you if you’d been showing it. A really good film, albeit somewhat gruesome in places of course. But wouldn’t expect anything less from Edgar Allen Poe.

    Saw the trailer for John Carter last night… it was a definite no from both us too I’m afraid.

  2. Are you able to try with just one showing a day of certain things, or is that restricted by the distributors?

    John Carter i’ve always thought would be a flop, the advert does not appeal to me in any way, shape or form. Surprised it’s doing well in certain areas, it certainly isn’t at my site.

  3. I came to see Bel Ami on Sunday. Wish I hadn’t, it was pretty grim. I don’t envy you the job of picking films Kevin. Must be a bloody nightmare, trying to get it right

  4. Kevin… Your comments in the recent post about the Uckfield demographic tell you all you need to know about John Carter; ditto ticket sales for The Best Exotic etc. However, I doubt even Judi Dench could have saved John Carter had she been foolish enough to appear in it – though she might have brought in a couple of more punters…

  5. Later that same day…

    After exhaustive and wide-ranging market research – in reality, my 16 year old son and my 18 year old daughter – two things emerged: they love The Picture House like no other cinema, they really do – because it’s cool, you’ll be glad to hear; and, they have no intention whatsoever of seeing John Carter at any cinema, anywhere in the world. Why? Because that’s not what Dominic West does. As they drag along their friends to the many films you provide for us, you can assume that the demographic is not too narrow…

  6. Well for I for one didn’t think that John Carter was any near as bad as the critics made out. It was loads better than The Green Lantern or the Star Wars prequels (not hard I suppose).

    You should have kept it on normal show times for next week so people had more opportunity to make their own minds up. I was thinking of watching it again too!

    I just can’t see that many more people coming to see Best Marigold (which I’ve seen) when it’s been on for 3 weeks already & as you’re doing 4 nightly screenings, surely you’ll end up with fewer people than this week? From what I’ve read, it’s Disney’s marketing that’s to blame for the poor performance of the film in the US.

    PS I’m a big fan of The Picture House and I’m glad it shows a wide variety of films. I’ve also brought along various members of my family with me (& paid for them) and they like it too!

  7. In the context of this blog entry, the quality of John Carter was not the issue. Some of the greatest films of all time were box office disasters, and some of the biggest piles of tosh become massive hits.

    Trust me, Marigold is still huge and will more than justify the extra screenings. The only thing that stands any chance of catching it for title of the biggest film of the year is Skyfall in October.

  8. OK fair enough. I went to see Marigold with my parents on the first Sunday it came out and that’s the first time I’ve sat in a packed out screening since I started frequenting your establishment just over a year ago. If it’s still doing good business 3 weeks later then it is as you say in your newsletter a phenomenon.

    I wonder if Hunger Games will perform as well with the other end of the demographic. My half-sister, who’s 14, is really looking forward to that one coming out next week and is going with 8 friends!

    As for me…if I can’t go to Barsoom again next week, I’ll just stick to We Bought A Zoo instead.

  9. Bel Ami was terrible, agreed. I had a lucky escape by seeing it in advance but I would defend Kevin’s choice of that film as ‘on paper’ at least it looks like it should tick all the right boxes.
    It never ceases to amaze me as well though how far the taste in Lewes apparently differs from national tastes in terms of Box Office. We have had single numbers (yes, really less than 10) in for some massive blockbusters on a Sat night and then been packed-out for the latest foreign language release that nobody else has heard of!
    By the way – it’s fascinating that people roar with laughter at the Marigold Hotel trailer in every place I’ve seen it screened and yet in Lewes, not a titter..

  10. The quality of a movie and the quality (read: quantity) of its audience are often, as Kevin rightly says, completely unrelated.

    On the other hand, although I always try to show the more cerebral, mature films, my personal preference is for scifi, childish comedy and other craziness. Unfortunately I’d sink if I just showed what I like to watch.

    I never bothered seeing John Carter, although its my type of film, although I’ve had it on screen for two weeks. I was so disappointed with its pitiful sales (my demographic being largely the same as yours, Kevin) that I’ve boycotted it out of angst.

    And the next couple of weeks aren’t looking fun on paper either, as the grown up content goes out the window to make space for post-apocalyptic gladiators and stop-motion pirates. Oh joy.

  11. Pingback: Uckfield’s Top Ten Films 2013. How many did you see? | Cinema Owner Confidential

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