The total cinema box-office in the UK & Ireland broke all records in 2015, overtaking 2012 to become the highest-grossing year ever. The exact total across the UK & Ireland was £1,309,606,400, up from £1,136,188,077 in 2014. This represented a 15.26% year-on-year rise, 11.07% ahead of the previous record holder (2012, with £1,179,046,380). Final admission figures are not yet available but are certain to have exceeded 2014, and may have overtaken 2012 as the largest in the multiplex era.

Geographically, all regions saw notable rises. England posted the biggest increase, rising 18%, followed by Scotland (12%) and Wales (10%). Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland both rose 5%.

As expected, 2015 was a year of enormous films. Where 2014’s biggest success was The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies with £41.3m, five titles managed to beat this total in 2015. All five were sequels in hugely successful film series, demonstrating the power of the franchise in the current marketplace. Indeed, seven of the top ten films were sequels (with another based on an international literary phenomenon: Fifty Shades Of Grey, eighth with £35.1m). Only two were original titles: Pixar’s Inside Out (sixth with £39.2m) and DreamWorks Animation’s Home (tenth with £25.4m).

The titles taking the top two spots are no surprise: based on two of the most successful media franchises of all time, these films were widely expected to break records and bolster the 2015 box-office. At number one in the 2015 calendar year was SPECTRE (£94m), the latest in a long line of Bond successes. At number two was Star Wars: The Force Awakens (£87.1m), the first live-action Star Wars film for ten years. Released on the 17th December, it passed SPECTRE in the first days of 2016 to become the biggest film released in 2015. It is predicted to overtake Skyfall (£103.2m) as the highest grossing film of all time in the UK by its fourth weekend. SPECTRE, meanwhile, has since moved into third place in the all-time charts, ahead of Avatar. Jurassic World, the first film in the Jurassic Park series for fourteen years, dominated the summer box-office with a £64.5m total, to take third place. Marvel’s Avengers returned in the hotly anticipated Age Of Ultron, with £48.3m (compared with £51.9m for the first Avengers film). Animated spinoff Minions followed 2013’s biggest film, Despicable Me 2, just beating its predecessor’s £47.5m lifetime gross with a total of £47.8m.

A sizeable hit in the market as a whole, Brooklyn was a runaway success here in Ireland. The well-received period drama made 37% of its £5m total in the Republic of Ireland ( €2.6m, £1.9m), coming ninth in the Irish chart for the year.

Universal Pictures recorded the biggest-ever year for any distributor, grossing £279,927,455 (21% of the overall market), with an exceptional four films in the top ten. Walt Disney was close behind with £261,669,644, taking 20% of the market share and three of the top ten films.

12-certificate films dominated the year, accounting for more than half the market (54%, up from 44% in 2014). 18-certificates, however, made up only 4% (comparable to 5% in 2014), 97% of which came from only two releases: Fifty Shades Of Grey and Legend (£18.4m). Despite the difficulties of translating its risqué contents, Fifty Shades delivered on the massive success of its source novel, demolishing the previous record for an 18-certificate (last year’s The Wolf Of Wall Street, £22.7m).

[quote title=”Lucy Jones – Rentrak, Executive Director”]In our previous review of the disappointing 2014 box-office (down 3% versus 2013), we stated that cinema is a product-driven market. The audience will turn out for the films that grab their attention but they need a compelling reason to go, given competition from home entertainment services like Netflix and Amazon, and the cost-of-living squeeze on household finances. This was emphatically proven by the record-breaking results seen in 2015 – which delivered not only the biggest box-office total of all time, but also Star Wars: The Force Awakens, now poised to take the crown for the biggest film of all time. In addition, it’s encouraging to see the success of local films and actors, with four UK productions passing £20m for the first time since 2011, and actors like Jamie Dornan, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega invading Hollywood. The government Film Tax Relief scheme is incredibly supportive of film-making in the UK and helps to boost our creative talent on both sides of the camera.[/quote]

Top 10 films in UK & Ireland in 2015:

  1. SPECTRE (Sony): £94.0m (still on release)
  2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney): £87.1m (still on release)
  3. Jurassic World (Universal): £64.5m
  4. The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Walt Disney): £48.3m
  5. Minions (Universal): £47.8m
  6. Inside Out (Walt Disney): £39.2m
  7. Fast & Furious 7 (Universal): £38.6m
  8. Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal): £35.1m
  9. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 (Lionsgate): £28.1m
  10. Home (20th Century Fox): £25.4m

Top 10 films in Ireland in 2015:

  1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney): €4.8m (still on release)
  2. SPECTRE (Sony): €4.5m (still on release)
  3. Minions (Universal): €4.3m
  4. Jurassic World (Universal): €4.2m
  5. Inside Out (Walt Disney): €3.5m
  6. The Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Walt Disney): €3.1m
  7. Fast & Furious 7 (Universal): €2.7m
  8. Fifty Shades Of Grey (Universal): €2.7m
  9. Brooklyn (Lionsgate): €2.6m
  10. Hotel Transylvania 2 (Sony): €2.1m

Data up to 31st December 2015

After the dramatic successes of 2015, the coming year may struggle to continue the year-on-year rise. There are arguably fewer potential hits of the size of SPECTRE or The Force Awakens, with the spacing of franchise sequels pushing many big films into 2017. However, the 2016 slate is still strong. Superheroes will return in sequels (Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, X-Men: Apocalypse, Captain America: Civil War) and new additions to the existing universes (Doctor Strange, Deadpool, Suicide Squad). Many other successful properties will return to cinemas, with films including Star Trek Beyond, Bridget Jones’s Baby, Alice Through The Looking Glass, Independence Day: Resurgence, Ice Age: Collision Course, the next Bourne instalment, and Pixar’s Finding Dory. We will also see large-scale adaptations of hugely popular properties, including Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, Angry Birds, The BFG, and The Jungle Book.

The year ends promisingly with spin-offs from two of the biggest franchises of all time. J. K. Rowling returns to Harry Potter’s wizarding world with Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, arriving in November, and Star Wars: Rogue One takes the same slot as 2015’s The Force Awakens in mid-December 2016.

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