Being something of both a film addict and stats man, I thought I would look at the most popular films shown in UK cinemas of all time to see what that might say about UK audiences, and perhaps how tastes have changed over the decades.
But a word of warning first folks- the list (and my analysis) is based on box office receipts rather than admissions although the receipts are adjusted for inflation so the figures are comparable, and this only relates to films released since 1989. Why 1989 you might ask? Well, the British Film Institute (BFI) who have compiled these figures have concluded that prior to that date, UK box office data is not available- or at least reliable enough. However, they do have admissions data for films released from 1901 -2000 which may be more reliable and I shall present that in a later blog.
What this means is that there is a big debate on whether it is possible to work out which films have been the most popular- but here goes anyway:
1. Star Wars-The Force Awakens (2015) £122m
2. Skyfall (2012) £ 107m
3. Avatar (2009) £104m
4. Spectre (2015) £95m
5. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) £91m
6. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) £87m
7. Toy Story 3 (2010) £80m
8. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) £80m
9. Mamma Mia! (2008) £79m
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) £78m
I guess the first thing you would say about this list is that it is dominated (80%) by what are called ‘franchise’ movies – we used to call them prequels and sequels but Star Wars, Harry Potter, James Bond, Toy Story and the Lord of the Rings are very big hitters this side of the ocean.
British made films account for 60% of the top 10 although you might want to argue what defines a ‘British’ made film – the BFI for example regards the Star Wars, Harry Potter, Bond and Mamma Mia! films as made in the UK. I suspect that this is due to them being largely made or produced in the UK even though a lot of the money raised to make them may have been of USA or other countries’ origin.
What do these figures suggest? That film audiences flock to the tried and tested things they enjoy with characters and storylines they are fond of and familiar with- especially if they are good (although that can be a matter of taste!). Going forward, I would expect the next ten years or so to look similar to this list in that we can anticipate that the Star Wars film will certainly dominate the rest of the current decade. Ditto the next part of the Harry Potter cycle with the Fantastic Beasts series of films to run to as many as 5, and there is no sign of the Bond franchise disappearing anytime soon-although who will be the next James Bond will have a lot to do with whether it will continue to have an extended life.