TARA BRADYon the idiosyncrasies of the Irish box office
FOR YEARS Irish people have competed at the highest possible level in two far from complementary arenas: pugilism and filmgoing. As fighters, we win enough Olympic medals to suggest that certain sports ministers should sleep with one eye open. But as movie punters, we’ve lost a little ground.
Can a special caped someone save the day? Well, d’uh. At the time of going to press, Irish audiences are in the multiplexes, watching many superheroes. Movies, like comic books, have never been more mainstream. Native punters have, thus far, been amazed by Spider-man to the tune of €2.3 million, and they spent €3.5 million marveling at the Avengers.
At the top of the pile, The Dark Knight Rises has sold more than 10 per cent of its overall UK/ROI tickets in the Republic and coined €6,469,853 on this island. Those party noises in the distance are likely emanating from Warner Bros Ireland, which is reputedly thrilled with the continuing haul. But will it be the biggest film of 2012? The race is on.
The Hobbit doesn’t hit screens until December 14th but a dark horse, or rather dark stuffed animal, has emerged to challenge Marvel and DC’s finest. In a country where Seth MacFarlane can boast his own saint’s day (probably), and where his cartoons play on 24/7 rotation, Ted was always destined to be a hit. But what a hit: midway through its second week on release, Ted has grossed €3.52 million in Ireland, a staggering 15.5 per cent of the UK/Irish box office. Can Universal Pictures steal the top spot as it did with Bridesmaids in 2011?
Ireland hearts movies again. Big movies. And only big movies. Just like in real life, in the movieverse, the rich are getting richer and the poor are heading for oblivion. The gap between the top spot and lower echelons of the chart has never been wider. Industry insiders have adopted a new mantra to reflect the new inequality: fifth is nowhere. They’re right: last weekend, 10th-placed Killer Joe made 196 times less than chart topper Ted.
Times are unexpectedly hard for all-ages titles as well. Pixar’s splendid Brave opened to €254,715, a low turnout for that imprint – lower, in fact, than last year’s opening €285,554 gambit for the sup-par Cars 2. Brave entered a choked marketplace against Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Lorax, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and chart re-entry Pirates in an Adventure with Scientists. It’s bad timing: too many kids’ films were released too late in the summer holidays. Won’t somebody think of the children? But in June?
At least kids’ films have longevity. The independent sector is entering much direr straits and the Irish Film is all but kaput. Grabbers avoided some of the pitfalls of recent native box office flops by providing a clear answer to the question “what’s it about?” (a creature feature, dummy). But it failed to address the inevitable follow up inquiry: “Who’s in it?’ A lack of stars and the tarnished brand of Irish film cost the enjoyable alien invasion flick dear: weekend totals from 10 prints in NI were less than €3,000.
The choices here are stark: either we introduce draconian protectionist measures or we think about half-price midweek tickets for “smaller” films, including our own. According to our log tables, 50 per cent of something is an improvement on 100 per cent of nothing.