Box office revenue eclipses £1bn but lags behind pre-pandemic levels

Box office revenue eclipses £1bn but lags behind pre-pandemic levels
Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie starred in this year's top-grossing film, Barbie (Image: Warner Bros)

Total box office revenue across the UK and Ireland reached £1.06bn in 2023 — an 8% increase compared with 2022, according to latest figures from Comscore.

It is the first year since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 to exceed the £1bn mark.

However, box office revenue is still lagging behind pre-pandemic figures, despite 2023 being the first full year since the pandemic without any Covid restrictions. In each of the five years before 2020, annual box office revenue had exceeded £1.3bn.

The top 10 films of 2023 are led by Warner Bros’ Barbie (£95.5m) and Universal’s Oppenheimer (£58.7m). Both were released on 21 July to much fanfare, following a “Barbenheimer” organic marketing campaign.

Notably, Oppenheimer is the only film in the top 10 to not be based on an existing intellectual property.

Warner Bros’ Wonka, which is still in cinemas, reached number four with £49.2m despite being released only in December. It is by far the most successful British/Irish production of the year, followed by The Great Escaper (£5.3m).

Comscore noted that the 2023 US writers and actors strikes caused a number of blockbusters to be pushed to 2024 (namely Dune: Part TwoKraven the Hunter and Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire), but this had a “much smaller impact” on box office than Covid-19 restrictions.

“Given the range of challenges UK exhibitors faced during the year, not least in terms of significantly increased operating costs, these positive box office figures for 2023 are welcome, representing a further step on the road to recovery,” said UK Cinema Association chief executive Phil Clapp.

Comscore also reported that there is “no strong sign” the ongoing cost-of-living crisis is currently affecting cinema-going.

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