The Cinema Advertising Association has published UK cinema admissions data for October.
The month saw 13,038,645 admissions, compared with 12,155,575 in October 2007, which means cinemas sold a total of 138,390,384 tickets between January and October 2008, up by 0.1% over the same period last year (see chart, below).
That’s not bad considering the wider travails affecting the economy. It is commonly held that cinema going is largely recession proof, because, the argument runs, people continue to visit the picture palace in search of relatively cheap entertainment while reining in other types of expenditure.
But the evidence is far from clear on this point. And in any case, there are good reasons to assume the present recession may be different. Unparalleled leisure opportunities compete for our attention inside and outside the home, and the ready availability of pleasing diversions online may give us pause before heading out the door. In this context, a modest rise in admissions is actually rather heartening.
October’s tally was driven by the starry-eyed popularity of High School Musical 3 (a half-term opener that amassed £15.9 million during the month), plus Quantum of Solace’s record-breaking debut on Halloween.
Last weekend (21-23 November) the film grossed £87,646 from 291 screens, taking its cumulative total to £68,116,092. If we estimate an average ticket price in the UK of £5.00 (last year it was £5.05, so this is an underestimate) that would put Mamma Mia’s admissions around the 13.6 million mark. The average ticket price in 1998 was £3.83 (according to the bfi Film and Television Handbook 2000), so Mamma Mia! still falls well short of Titanic’s titanic admissions total of 18 million.
But Abba fans can take heart. Variety reports the film shifted a record 1.7 million DVD units on its first day of sale in the UK (24 November), putting Titanic’s first day total (1.1 million) in the shade (although the overall DVD market was much smaller in those days).