The Paul Torday adaptation wins over Middle England audiences, while Kevin Macdonald's Marley proves a documentary hit
The winnerIt was hardly a hit with the upscale critics and is saddled with a title that's not exactly multiplex-friendly, but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen nevertheless is the top new release at the UK box-office, opening with a highly creditable £1.17m.
In a week where a record 17 new releases competed for the attention of cinemagoers, this adaptation of the Paul Torday novel proves once again the power of the older, middle-class, Middle England audience that has already proved so potent this year with the success of The Iron Lady and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
While Salmon Fishing lacks older cast members equivalent to Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent, or Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, it was clearly pitched at this market, with newspaper ads including endorsements from Woman & Home, Woman's Own and Easy Living, as well as quotes from regular cinemagoers with ages ranging from 28 to 61.
Lionsgate reports that more than a quarter of its gross was earned outside the major multiplex chains.
The Salmon Fishing gross is about half the debut number achieved by Marigold Hotel (£2.22m) and The Iron Lady (£2.15m), and is roughly level with the opening weekend of director Lasse Hallstrom's previous flick Dear John (£1.27m), as long as you strip out paid previews of £722,000 from that film's figure.
Distributor Lionsgate will be hoping that Salmon Fishing achieves the same multiple of its opening that has been earned by Exotic Marigold, which would be enough to deliver a total in excess of £10m.
That happy outcome, of course, is far from certain.
With The Hunger Games going back up to number three, and The Cabin in the Woods just one place lower, Lionsgate has achieved the extremely rare feat of three flicks in the UK box-office top five all from the same distributor.
With £21.26m so far, The Hunger Games is now the ninth biggest-grossing flick of the past 12 months, and the biggest of the 2012 calendar year, just ahead of The Woman in Black (£21.22m).
The Hollywood contenders The week after Battleship arrived in cinemas, and the week before Marvel Avengers Assemble kickstarts the summer blockbuster season, the current frame lacked a major contender, instead providing a berth for several mid-level titles.
Top Hollywood new release is Lockout, a prison-in-space thriller from the Luc Besson factory, starring Guy Pearce.
The Australian is an actor better known for elevating roles via performance than for contributing a strong marketable element, and it's hard to imagine he was the producers' first choice.
A so-so debut of £596,000 resulted.
That number is positively enviable in comparison to the opening salvo of Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone, which limped out of the gate with £275,000.
Both will probably take a quick exit from plexes as the big guns of summer arrive.
The documentary hitLast year proved a banner period for documentaries, with Senna on £3.17m, TT3D: Closer to the Edge on £1.25m, and Pina and Cave of Forgotten Dreams both clearing £600,000.
Now, 2012 delivers its first major docu hit, with Kevin Macdonald's Marley kicking off its run with £203,000 from 64 cinemas including previews of £9,000.
That's not in the Senna league (debut of £375,000 including £27,000 previews), but it's a great number for a factual music documentary – as opposed to a performance-driven flick such as Michael Jackson's This is It or Justin Bieber's Never Say Never.
Macdonald's Touching the Void debuted with £115,000 from just 29 screens back in December 2003, on its way to £2.66m.
Marley's chief competition for arthouse audiences remains Norwegian thriller Headhunters, which with £1.04m so far is closing in on the lifetime total of Sweden's Let the Right One In (£1.10m), whose successful distribution strategy it is evidently mimicking.
The future A year ago was Easter weekend, with Fast Five roaring into the top spot with £5.33m including previews.
Unsurprisingly, grosses for the current frame are down on the 2011 equivalent (by 15%), ending a five-week run where numbers have been up on last year.
The last weekend of April 2011 saw the arrival of Thor, but this year Marvel goes one better with its superhero team-up Marvel Avengers Assemble, which looks set for a stellar opening.
Unsurprisingly, rival studios have run for cover, with competition coming mainly from arthouse contenders, such as Glenn Close passion project Albert Nobbs and Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress.
Disney animal documentary African Cats targets the family market.
Top 10 films1.
Battleship, £1,282,091 from 497 sites.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, £1,169,235 from 412 sites (New)
The Hunger Games, £1,070,787 from 443 sites.
The Cabin in the Woods, £1,033,533 from 422 sites.
Titanic 3D, £925,740 from 398 sites.
The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists, £772,887 from 527 sites.
Lockout, £596,500 from 333 sites (New)
Mirror Mirror, £535,093 from 427 sites.
9. 21 Jump Street, £376,781 from 271 sites.
Gone, £275,087 from 253 sites (New)
Other openersMarley, 64 sites, £194,203 (+ £8,859 previews)
Vicky Donor, 19 sites, £40,273
Elles, 15 sites, £27,847 (+ £4,212 previews)
Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy, 56 sites, £26,487
Breathing, 9 sites, £8,401 (+ £2,255 previews)
Elfie Hopkins, 29 sites, £6,650
The Bad and the Beautiful, 1 site, £6,102
Beauty, 2 sites, £4,112
Town of Runners, 6 sites, £2,969 (+ £2,267 previews)
The Divide, 1 site, £468
Fury, Grave Encounters, Hollywoo, Transit: opening from Monday onwards/no figures available
DramaCharles Gantguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
All rights reserved.
| Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds... See Complete Article @ Guardian