Event cinema title Dear England is the widest new release at this weekend’s UK-Ireland box office, playing in 716 UK venues through National Theatre Live.
The play first screened in 694 venues yesterday (Thursday 25), grossing £541,000 with several venues still to report. As well as cinemas, it is screening in many non-cinema venues such as community centres and village halls.
Dear England is a recording of James Graham’s play, following the fortunes of the England men’s football team across three tournaments: the 2018 World Cup, the 2020 European Championships, and the 2022 World Cup.
Directed by Rupert Goold and starring Joseph Fiennes as England manager Gareth Southgate, the play also features actors in the roles of England stars including Harry Kane, Harry Maguire, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford; as well as former players such as Gary Lineker.
It debuted at London’s National Theatre in June 2023, running until August initially; before transferring to the Prince Edward Theatre in London’s West End. The wide cinema release gives audiences across the country the opportunity to relive the highs and lows of Southgate’s celebrated team.
Event cinema has proved a profitable terrain for exhibitors in recent years – most notably with concert film Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, the highest-grossing event cinema release ever in the UK and Ireland, which opened to a huge £5.7m and closed on £12.2m.
Closer comparisons are likely to be National Theatre Live’s Prima Facie, a one-woman play starring 2016 Screen Star of Tomorrow Jodie Comer, which opened to £1.4m in one day in July 2022, before closing with £5.5m later that year – the highest-grossing play recorded at UK-Ireland cinemas.
Precedent was set for Prima Facie in 2019 by National Theatre Live’s Fleabag, from 2014 Screen Star Phoebe Waller-Bridge, which made £4.4m across its run. Those two titles opened in 601 and 628 venues respectively, demonstrating that a wide opening and long run can be profitable with the right title.
UK writer Graham’s work has previously been adapted for television, including 2017 play Quiz about the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? cheating scandal. He also wrote 2019 television film Brexit: The Uncivil War, starring 2004 Screen Star Benedict Cumberbatch as Dominic Cummings.
Purple, Strangers start out
Warner Bros is starting Blitz Bazawule’s The Color Purple in 644 cinemas. The film is an adaptation of the 2004 musical of the same name; itself adapted from Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, that won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
Fantasia Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo and Corey Hawkins lead the cast, with the story following an African American woman living in the American South during the early 1900s.
The film has featured in the 2024 awards season, with Barrino and Brooks both nominated at the Golden Globes and Baftas; and Brooks nominated for best supporting actress at the Oscars. It has also been a hit with organisations celebrating Black talent, with 19 nominations and nine wins at the US’ Black Reel Awards, four wins at the African-American Film Critics Association Awards, and 15 pending nominations at the NAACP Image Awards.
Walker’s novel was previously adapted into a 1985 film by Steven Spielberg – his first departure from the summer blockbusters with which he had made his name.
The 2024 version is a second feature film for Ghanian director Bazawule, after 2018’s The Burial Of Kojo. He also co-directed 2020 musical Black Is King for US music superstar Beyonce.
Disney is opening Andrew Haigh’s romantic ghost story All Of Us Strangers in 490 cinemas. A Telluride 2023 premiere, the film went on to festivals including New York, London, Athens, Rio de Janeiro and Stockholm.
The fifth feature from 2008 Screen Star Haigh, All Of Us Strangers stars Andrew Scott as a lonely gay Londoner, whose monotonous life is uprooted by both a new love (played by 2020 Star Paul Mescal); and visiting his childhood home to find his long-dead parents (2008 Star Claire Foy and Jamie Bell) still there alive and well.
Produced by Graham Broadbent and Peter Czernin’s Blueprint Pictures, the Searchlight Pictures title received 14 nominations at the 2023 British Independent Film Awards and was the big winner on the night with seven prizes, including best British independent film, best director, best screenplay and best supporting performance for Mescal.
It added five Bafta nominations – although Scott’s omission from the best actor category was a surprise; and it was also missing entirely from this week’s Oscar nominations.
Studiocanal is opening Alberto Corredor’s US horror Baghead in 376 cinemas across its first week. Based on Corredor’s 2017 short of the same name, the film follows a young woman who inherits a run-down pub, only to discover a shape-shifting creature within its basement.
Vertigo Releasing is starting Jamie Childs’ thriller Jackdaw in 75 sites. Set in Northeast England, the film follows a broke former motocross champion who agrees to do an open water pickup of an illegal package. Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Jenna Coleman, Thomas Turgoose and Rory McCann lead the cast; the soundtrack includes an original song from Northeast rockstar Sam Fender, his first new music in almost two years.
Limited releases this weekend include Abel Ferrara’s post-First World War drama Padre Pio starring Shia LaBeouf in 21 site through Miracle/Dazzler; Ron Fricke’s music documentary Samsara in 14 sites through Curzon; and Marc Isaacs’ documentary This Blessed Pot in two cinemas through Verve Pictures.
Joining Dear England in the event cinema paddock this weekend is Trafalgar Releasing’s Carmen – Met Opera 2023/24.
Having dethroned Warner Bros’ Wonka last time out, Paramount’s Mean Girls will look to hold off the fellow musical this weekend; with Disney’s Poor Things and the impressive run of Sony’s Anyone But You also among holdovers.