'Barbenheimer' Powered 2023 U.K., Ireland Box Office to $1.3 Billion

‘Barbenheimer’ Powered 2023 U.K., Ireland Box Office to $1.3 Billion

The U.K. and Ireland box office revenue improved 8.3% from £980.5 million ($1.25 billion) in 2022 to £1.06 billion ($1.35 billion) in 2023, according to numbers released by Comscore. However, the number was 23.5% below the 2019 pre-pandemic total of £1.35 billion ($1.72 billion).

2023, the first full year since 2019 without any COVID-19 restrictions, marked the first post-pandemic year to achieve over £1 billion. Prior to the pandemic, annual box office had exceeded £1.3 billion in each of the five years through 2019.

Of the five nations and regions making up the U.K. and Ireland territory, the Republic of Ireland had the strongest year-on-year growth, with box office 13% higher than 2022. Box office in Wales rose by 10%, with Northern Ireland up 9% and England and Scotland both rising by 8%.

The number of new releases in 2023 soared to 1,013 up from 929 in 2022 and 938 in 2019.

2023 saw an improvement in the number of blockbuster releases, as COVID-driven production delays receded. The number of saturation releases (films playing in more than 250 cinemas) that had from 186 in 2019 to 135 in 2022 improved to 174 in 2023. The U.S. writers’ and actors’ strikes caused some blockbuster titles to be pushed into 2024 to allow for shoots to finish and promotional activity to resume, including “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire,” “Kraven The Hunter” and “Dune: Part II,” but this had a much smaller impact on the box office than did the earlier COVID-19 shutdowns, the Comscore report notes.

The U.K. is undergoing a cost of living crisis, but this did not have an effect on cinema-going, the report observes, with exhibitors offering a range of special offers and discounts. “The impact of #Barbenheimer over the summer was phenomenal, with social media posts mentioning ‘Barbie’ and/or ‘Oppenheimer’ achieving over 40 million interactions globally on a single day in July,” the report says.

“Barbie” led the box office with £95.5 million, followed by “Oppenheimer” with £58.7 million and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” with £54.8 million. The Top 10 films accounted for 40.5% of 2023’s total revenue, lower than 2022’s figure of 43.8%, but indicating a greater diversity of releases.

The summer was the strongest period of 2023 with six of the Top 10 titles released in the three months from May, beginning with “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3” and peaking in July when “Mission Impossible – Dead Reckoning: Part One” was followed a week later by “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.”

While Universal became the highest grossing studio for 2023 worldwide, in the U.K. and Ireland, Warner Bros. took the honors. Across 23 new releases and 62 pre-2023 holdovers, Warner Bros earned £239.2 million (22.5% of the total market), above Universal’s £225.4 million (21.2%). This represents a 53% increase for Warner Bros from 2022 when they ranked third. Apart from their Top 10 titles “Barbie” and “Wonka,” Warner Bros had hits including “Creed III” and “The Meg 2.”

Universal had nine titles grossing over £5 million. As well as their three Top 10 titles, the studio had hits with “Trolls Band Together,” “Fast X,” “Five Nights At Freddy’s” and “M3gan.” Disney ranked third with £203.4 million (19.2% share). In all, 164 different distributors released films this year, up from 136 in 2022. The Top 10 distributors’ films accounted for 91.5% of box office.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the U.K. Cinema Association, said: “Given the range of challenges U.K. 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.”

Andy Leyshon, chief executive at the Film Distributors’ Association, added: “To cross the £1 billion box office threshold again was a major landmark for our industry, and with an exciting line-up of releases set for the next few years, hopefully we can continue the good momentum.”

Top 10 films in U.K. & Ireland in 2023:(Data from Jan. 6, 2023-Jan. 4, 2024)

“Barbie” (Warner Bros): £95.5 million “Oppenheimer” (Universal): £58.7 million “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (Universal): £54.8 million “Wonka” (Warner Bros): £49.2 million – still on release “Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3” (Disney): £36.7 million “Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse” (Sony): £30.7 million “The Little Mermaid” (Disney): £27.4 million “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” (Paramount): £26.6 million “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish” (Universal): £26 million “Avatar: The Way Of Water” (Disney): £25.5 million in 2023 (£77.3 million lifetime)

Top 10 British/Irish films in U.K. & Ireland in 2023:(Data from Jan. 6, 2023-Jan. 4, 2024)

“Wonka” (Warner Bros): £49.2 million – still on release “The Great Escaper” (Warner Bros): £5.3 million “Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical” (Sony): £5.2 million in 2023 (£28 million lifetime) “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (Studiocanal): £4.8 million “Empire Of Light” (Disney): £3.8 million “Allelujah” (Warner Bros): £3.6 million “The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry” (eOne Films): £3.3 million “Ferrari” (Black Bear/Sky): £2.6 million – still on release “Talk To Me” (Altitude): £2.5 million “Sumotherhood” (Paramount): £2.4 million