UPDATED: UK Box Office Breakdown: Odeon Snubs Rambo

Sony/Odeon spat denies action flick no.1 spot.

by | February 29, 2008 | Comments

This week's UK Box Office Top EightRambo wasn’t box office number 1 in the UK chart this week – and it’s all down to the Odeon.

The cinema chain, the largest in UK, refused to show Sylvester Stallone‘s violent new film in any of their UK theatres. It still made a strong showing everywhere else, making £2.5m and coming in at number three in the chart. But it surely would’ve claimed top spot had it been represented in more than 100 Odeon cinemas.

The reasons for the extraordinary snub are unclear. In an official statement, Odeon claimed the decision was down to “commercial reasons”. They said: “As the UK’s largest cinema chain, Odeon offers its guests a wide range of film genres to appeal to many different audiences. As such the decision not to screen Rambo will free up screens to show alternative popular new films such as Jumper, Be Kind Rewind and Juno.”

What these commercial reasons could be, however, is unclear. Whilst the film wasn’t a huge smash in the States, it still opened at number one and has taken over $40m so far, meaning the idea that it wasn’t commercially viable to take up Odeon’s screens is rather odd.

It’s more probable that the real reason for the snub was the cinema chain’s breakdown in negotiations with the film’s distributor Sony. It is rumoured that the dispute revolves around the share of the profits from the film, although, again, there has been no official comment on this.

Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors Association, said: “Odeon haven’t pulled the film, they have refused to show it. It’s very rare for this to happen with a film of this profile. I understand that Odeon were not happy with the terms the distributors were asking.”

It’s all very bizarre, and until Odeon and/or Sony give us something official, it’s all just speculation. What is clear, though, is that the UK box office looks odd as a result. Action flick Jumper is going strong at number one in its second week, whilst new entry Be Kind Rewind is just ahead of Rambo in second place.

Michel Gondry’s quirky comedy about two friends ( Jack Black and Mos Def ) who begin remaking Hollywood classics themselves – with hilarious consequences obviously – has received mixed but generally favourable reviews (68% on the Tomatometer) and has obviously benefitted from an intensive advertising campaign.

Although no other new releases broke into the charts, fans of gags about animals eating their own droppings will be glad to hear that Alvin and the Chipmunks rose triumphantly back into the top ten. The film, based around the titular high-pitched rodent trio, has now made over £21m at the UK box office alone.

29/2 UPDATE:

Since we published this story, Sony has issued a press release outlining how successful it feels Rambo has been, despite the Odeon snub. MD Peter Taylor said: “Sony Pictures are delighted with the success of the latest instalment of the Rambo franchise. With the movie heading UK box office charts everyday this week it is obvious that the original fans of the character have embraced the new movie alongside a whole new generation seeing Rambo at the cinema for the first time.” They also released facts and figures outlining the film’s strong box office performance — comparing Rambo‘s gross to similarly 18-rated franchises Saw and Hostel.

More interesting is Sony’s decision to release a statement at all. Rambo‘s success in the US, and the fact that the film had the highest screen average of any top ten movie in the UK are both indicative of the film’s obviously sizeable audience. However recent reports in the media have claimed that the film was dropped by Odeon because they expected it to perform poorly and it’s possible that this is the reason for Sony’s comment.

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