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Box Office: Q1 2014

With the year a quarter gone, the box office numbers are a down on 2013’s, down further on 2012’s, and lacking a good news story about local releases.

In cold, hard cash terms, the year’s first 13 weeks saw a box office take of $43,138,391. It’s not a number to hate, but is almost $2 million or 4.25% shy of 2013’s $45,057,043, and another half million or 5.5% off 2012’s $45,634,402.

The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug has done its bit to keep things going, ending its run with just over $9.4 million (although $6.8 million it’s take came in 2013).

Other strong performers during the period have included kids’ titles such as Frozen with c$5.1 million.

Most of those higher-earning titles were on release during the school summer holidays. Although that happens every year, the box office performed poorly in the 2014 holidays. Having ended the first week of the year up over 18% against 2013 (in no small part because of The Hobbit 2 and Frozen), it’s been downhill since.

The performance is even less encouraging if one remembers summer. Last year’s summer was a gem for beach-lovers and roundly panned by exhibitors and distributors alike as the unhelpful weather kept prospective cinema-gooers otherwise occupied. The good weather wasn’t so good this year, nor so regular, yet the numbers are down on 2013.

Throw in a year’s worth of inflation, an increase during 2013 of the number of cinemas converted to digital exhibition – adding cost for exhibitors but allowing them to charge premium prices for 3D screenings – and the picture looks even less rosy.

As the kids went back to school at the beginning of February, the box office hit its worst point of the quarter year on year, down 6.7% against 2013.

Frozen: waiting for another title to earn $5 million

Frozen: gets tired of waiting for another title to earn $5 million

Of the locals, the best performers were two documentaries finishing up runs begun last year.

Leanne Pooley’s festival-premiered Beyond the Edge (Toronto) and Jess Feast’s Gardening with Soul (NZIFF) completed their runs with $884,743 and $489,931 respectively. Feast’s doco followed the 2013 pattern and success of Christopher Pryor & Miriam Smith similarly nun-themed How Far Is Heaven.

Since then, the year’s two local debutantes have had – to put it politely – limited success.

Himiona Grace’s The Pa Boys tuned up only $121,854. The number was disappointing, and made more so by comparisons with the most recent title featuring Maori and music as strong threads, ,em>Mt Zion.

If The Pa Boys’ takings weren’t disappointing enough, they looked good against those for Craig Newland’s 3 Mile Limit. That sank after taking on board only $67,055 – hugely disappointing for a title which had many times that amount committed to radio advertising from sponsor the Radio Network.

To borrow a saying, perhaps nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.

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