Which films had the widest UK cinema release?

8 December '14 Comment

cinema releaseI have started to study the UK box office figures and over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of what I’ve found in the data. First up, I took a look at the number of sites films are released in. All of today’s data looks at UK cinema releases between January 2008 and August 2014, inclusive. In summary…

  • The UK site with the most screens is the Cineworld Valley Centertainment in Sheffield with 20
  • Universal released the largest number of films in UK cinemas,  2008-14
  • Warner Bros. distributed 45% of the top 20 films with the widest cinema release
  • ‘How To Train Your Dragon 2’ has widest cinema release out of all films which didn’t reach #1 at the UK box office
  • ‘Frozen’ was screened in 81% of UK cinemas
  • There were 698 films released in the UK in 2013

What is a cinema site?

A ‘site’ is an individual cinema premises, and a single site may contain many screens (20, in the case of the Cineworld Valley Centertainment in Sheffield).  In 2013 there were 756 sites in the UK, 295 of which (39%) were multiplex. Although there are a large number of films released in the UK (698 in 2013), it’s only major Hollywood blockbusters that can secure a wide cinema release. It costs money to release and promote a film and so the wider the release, the deeper the distributor’s pockets need to be.

Which films had the widest UK cinema release?

The Hobbit movie posterThe table of UK films with the widest cinema release is dominated by Warner Bros, which has nine out of the top 20 films.

UK cinema releases, by largest number of sites (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

FilmDistributorRelease dateSites% of sites

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Warner Bros02/11/201260178%
2. Les MiserablesUniversal30/11/201259978%
3. The Dark Knight RisesWarner Bros08/06/201259477%
4. The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugWarner Bros27/09/201359479%
5. SkyfallSony Pictures14/09/201259377%
6. How to Train Your Dragon 220th Century Fox04/04/201458878%*
7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood PrinceWarner Bros10/07/200958681%
8. Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows: Part 2Warner Bros10/06/201158278%
9. FrozenDisney10/09/201058181%
10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1Warner Bros05/11/201058181%
11. Man Of SteelWarner Bros19/04/201357576%
12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes20th Century Fox25/04/201457476%*
13. InterstellarWarner Bros15/08/201457476%*
14. Monsters UniversityDisney17/05/201357376%
15. GravityWarner Bros23/08/201357176%
16. BoltDisney06/02/200957079%
17. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger TidesDisney06/05/201156976%
18. Toy Story 3DDisney25/09/200956979%
19. Life of Pi20th Century Fox09/11/201256674%
20. Gone Girl20th Century Fox11/07/201456374%*
21. Guardians of the GalaxyDisney09/05/201456174%*
22. Despicable Me 2Universal03/05/201356074%
23. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2eOne Films05/10/201255973%
24. Rio 220th Century Fox17/01/201455874%*
25. Iron Man 3Disney15/03/201355874%

The “% of sites” column shows the percentage of sites in the UK which screened that film.  The number of UK sites fluctuates slightly year-by-year, from 727 in 2007 to 756 in 2013. *The number of cinemas sites in 2014 has not been released so for those I used the 2013 figure.

The widest cinema release for each distributor

Les Mis movie posterTracking distributors over a long period of time is hard as the companies involved are not consistent.  Over the six and a half years I’m looking at in this article, distributors have formed, closed, merged, re-named and partnered with other companies on a film-by-film basis.  For today’s research I have used the name the company was using at the time each film was released.

Widest cinema release for each UK distributor (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

DistributorFilmRelease dateSites
Warner BrosThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey02/11/2012601
UniversalLes Miserables30/11/2012599
Sony PicturesSkyfall14/09/2012593
20th Century FoxHow to Train Your Dragon 204/04/2014588
DisneyMonsters University17/05/2013573
eOne FilmsThe Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 205/10/2012559
LionsgateThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire06/09/2013557
ParamountStar Trek: Into Darkness29/03/2013554
PicturehouseMonty Python Live (Mostly) - O2 London 201425/04/2014514
WarnerSpeed Racer09/05/2008457
VertigoTop Cat - The Movie27/04/2012446
BBC WorldwideDoctor Who: The Day of the Doctor06/09/2013440
OptimumThe Tourist26/11/2010429
IconEdge Of Darkness15/01/2010423
CinemaLiveAndre Rieu’s 2014 Maastricht Concert25/04/2014395
Arts AllianceOne Direction: Where We Are - The Concert Film18/07/2014390
WorldwideThree and Out25/04/2008380
ErosKrrish 316/08/2013342
Koch MediaRed Dawn01/02/2013341

Which distributors only open big?

Walt Disney logoUniversal has released the largest number of films, but it was Disney that had the highest average number of sites (349) for their films (out of UK distributors who had released at least five films).

UK distributors, by average number of sites (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

#DistributorFilms releasedAverage sites
220th Century Fox175336
5Warner Bros154323
7eOne Films116292
8Sony Pictures140279
12By Experience11152
14Koch Media14127

The widest runners-up

How To Train Your Dragon movie posterTypically, a new Hollywood blockbuster will expect to secure the top spot at the box office in its opening weekend.  However, there are only 52 top spots available each year, so I thought it would be fun to look at which films had the widest cinema release but didn’t make it to the top of the UK box office. UK cinema releases which never reached #1 at the UK box office, by largest number of sites (4th Jan 2008 to 17th August 2014 inclusive)

#FilmDistributorRelease dateSites
1How to Train Your Dragon 220th Century Fox04/04/2014588
2Life of Pi20th Century Fox09/11/2012566
3Philomena20th Century Fox16/08/2013553
4The Pirates! In an Adventure With ScientistsSony Pictures24/02/2012551
5The World's EndUniversal24/05/2013548
6Muppets Most WantedDisney10/01/2014547
7The Great GatsbyWarner Bros05/04/2013545
8Captain PhillipsSony02/08/2013544
9Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader20th Century Fox03/12/2010542
10The Book of Life20th Century Fox01/08/2014540


The data for today’s article was collected from cinemas by Rentrak and provided to the public via the BFI. Many people aren’t aware of how much data is available publicly via the BFI website. For example, you can either buy the data I used today from Rentrak directly (for commercial rates) or use the fragments of data the BFI have permission to share publicly for free, as I did. I combined 338 individual weekend box office reports to provide the basis of today’s research, containing all 3800 films released over my chosen time period. This was quite a task, so it’s entirely possible the odd error has slipped in. If you spot something awry, please let me know and I’ll fix it.


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