Latest figures from Comscore confirm that 2023 saw another step in the recovery of the UK cinema sector, with an increase in box office of over 8 per cent on the previous year.

Total revenues for the year were £978,528,029, 8.3 per cent up on 2022. At the same time box office for UK and Ireland – commonly treated as the same territory for box office purposes – broke the £1 billion barrier for the first time since the pandemic. Admissions were also up 5.3 per cent on 2022 at 123,618,878.

The top ten films at the UK box office in 2023 were as follows:

RankTitleDistributorRevenue (£m)
1BarbieWarner Bros87.0
2OppenheimerUniversal52.8
3The Super Mario Bros. MovieUniversal50.0
4WonkaWarner Bros45.9
5Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3Walt Disney34.3
6Spider-Man: Across The Spider-VerseSony28.0
7The Little MermaidWalt Disney25.4
8Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part OneParamount24.4
9Avatar: The Way Of WaterWalt Disney23.7
10Puss In Boots: The Last WishUniversal23.4

[source: Comscore]

Noting these latest figures, Comscore commented that:

‘2023 saw a significant improvement in the number of blockbuster releases, as the hangover from COVID-driven production delays receded. While 2022 brought recovery in the overall volume of films, there had remained a shortfall in the number of ‘saturation’ releases (playing in over 250 cinemas), falling from 186 in 2019 to 135 in 2022. This improved in 2023 to 174 saturation releases, almost back to pre-COVID levels. The US writers’ and actors’ strikes during summer 2023 did though cause a small number of 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 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 summer was the strongest period of 2023. Six of the Top 10 titles were released in the three months from May, kicking off 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. When The Super Mario Bros. Movie raced to over £50m in April, there seemed few titles on the slate to challenge it. This all changed in July with Barbie passing £50 million in just 11 days and Oppenheimer joining it after a month on release. Film students will no doubt be analysing summer 2023 in years to come, with the counter-programming releases of Barbie and Oppenheimer offering the perfect case study in audience segmentation and viral marketing.’

The full Comscore press release – covering UK and Ireland – can be found here.

[Update – figures released by the Cinema Advertising Association confirmed annual admissions for the year to be 123,617,880, a 5.4 per increase on 2023.]