The winner: Dunkirk
While summer is traditionally a strong season for multiplex cinemas, it can prove a tough challenge for venues trying to offer an alternative to Hollywood blockbusters, since the most commercially potent arthouse fare tends to cluster into autumn and winter for awards season. Which means the arrival of Dunkirk was greeted by the indie-cinema bookers with a combination of relief and joy: an intelligent mainstream film they could programme without fear of embarrassment, and with appeal that cuts across the demographics.
As for the film’s subject, the second world war has been commercially unproven in recent years, and Churchill, released in June, was a box-office fizzle. On the other hand, it had the advantage of novelty: cinemagoers can hardly complain about a surfeit of films on the conflict.
In the UK, Dunkirk has opened at the top end of any reasonable expectations with a very robust £10.02m from a whopping 638 cinemas. That cinema count is higher than for the opening frames of current summer blockbusters such as War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Despicable Me 3 and Wonder Woman. In other words, like the popular Dutch beer, Dunkirk has refreshed the parts that other films cannot reach, playing across the multiplexes and boutique cinema chains (Picturehouse, Everyman, Curzon), and also at key indie cinemas that traditionally don’t play Hollywood blockbusters: Edinburgh Filmhouse, Glasgow Film Theatre, Manchester Home and so on.
Warners reports that Dunkirk scored £1.33m of its gross in Imax venues. There is also news that it has done well in venues offering projection in 35mm and 70mm – Picturehouse, for example, achieved greater seat occupancy for its celluloid presentations. Dunkirk has achieved the fourth biggest UK opening of 2017, behind Beauty and the Beast, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Despicable Me 3. (Fast and Furious 8 was also seemingly bigger, but its debut number was boosted by significant…