For the first time in a decade Doctor Who was back in UK cinemas last Friday night. BlogtorWho takes a look at the numbers…

The double bill of ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday‘ and ‘The Empire of Death‘ was the first venture of Doctor Who into UK cinemas since ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ in 2013 and ‘Deep Breath‘ in 2014.

UK box office data showed that Doctor Who took £364,353 on Friday night putting it into fourth place on the charts. This is a respectable position given that Doctor Who had a single screening unlike others in the chart which had showings across the weekend. With 276 cinemas showing the two part series finale this equated to a site average of £1320. Again this is another respectable figure given that the screening did not start until 11pm Friday with ‘Empire of Death‘ concluding close to 1am the following Saturday morning.

According to the UK Cinema Association the average price for a standard cinema ticket was £7.92 in 2023. Based on this average ticket price the box office takings would equate to 46,004 tickets sold. Anecdotal accounts of tickets costing £15 for the screening would therefore equate to around 24,290 tickets sold for Doctor Who.

Weekend 21-23 June 2024 UK Box Office

Rank Title Weekend Gross Number of cinemas Site average Total Gross to date
1 Inside Out 2 £7,762,903 700 £11,090 £23,250,882
2 The Bikeriders £1,085,530 700 £1,551 £1,085,530
3 Bad Boys: Ride Or Die £1,009,386 598 £1,688 £9,067,223
4 Doctor Who: The Legend of Ruby Sunday/Empire of Death £364,353 276 £1,320 £364,353

Only two direct comparisons can be made when it comes to Doctor Who at the UK box office. The first is the 50th Anniversary special ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ which also was screened in UK cinemas alongside being transmitted on BBC One. In November 2013 Doctor Who was shown in more cinemas, 440, and achieved a total box office gross of £1,798,629, equating to a site average of £4,088. These numbers put ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ third in the box office chart for the weekend of November 22nd to 24th 2013.

Weekend 22-24 November 2013 UK Box Office

Rank Title Weekend Gross Number of cinemas Site average Total Gross to date
1 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire £12,189,733 554 £22,003 £12,189,733
2 Gravity £2,389,193 548 £4,360 £19,444,886
3 Doctor Who: The Day of the Doctor £1,798,629 440 £4,088 £1,798,629

According to the Film Distributor’s Association the average ticket price for the cinema was £6.48 in 2013. Based on that average it would equate to 277,566 tickets sold. It is not surprising that these numbers are higher than the latest series finale. ‘The Day of the Doctor‘ was screened at a more convenient time in the evening and did not require cinema goers to be awake into the early hours of the next morning. Similarly, cinema sites did not need to stay open longer to accommodate the 2013 screening and it was therefore shown in more venues.

Less than a year after ‘The Day of the Doctor’ was in cinemas, Peter Capaldi’s debut episode ‘Deep Breath’ also enjoyed screening across the UK during August 2014.

Weekend 22-24 August 2014 UK Box Office

Rank Title Weekend Gross Number of cinemas Site average Total Gross to date
1 Lucy £3,076,997 486 £6,331 £3,076,997
2 The Inbetweeners 2 £2,366,161 515 £4,594 £27,631,404
3 Guardians of the Galaxy £1,259,998 497 £2,535 £21,895,128
4 Into the Storm £1,147,657 431 £2,663 £1,147,657
5 Deliver Us from Evil £629,554 304 £2,071 £629,554
6 What If £592,501 374 £1,584 £592,501
7 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes £588,994 406 £1,451 £30,987,705
8 Doctor Who: Deep Breath £522,908 468 £1,117 £522,908

The summer blockbuster season was in full swing during this weekend with Guardians of the Galaxy, the sequel to The Inbetweeners Movie and another entry into The Planet of the Apes dominating the UK Box Office. Despite this ‘Deep Breath‘ was shown in more cinemas than ‘The Day of the Doctor‘, 468, and brought in a very impressive £522, 908. This equated to a site average of £1,117, lower than ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday/Empire of Death‘ achieved. Unfortunately, given the strong blockbuster competition and peak cinema season Doctor Who only reached eighth in the chart based on that screening. Once again the Film Distributor’s Association calculate that the average ticket price for the cinema was £6.64 in 2014. Based on that average it would equate to 78,751 tickets sold for ‘Deep Breath’.

Conclusion

Despite all this data it is largely unfair to make direct comparisons between ‘The Day of the Doctor‘, ‘Deep Breath‘ and ‘The Legend of Ruby Sunday/Empire of Death‘. The box office takings for the series finale are certainly respectable and demonstrate that Doctor Who on the big screen appealed to a sizeable audience.

When will we see Doctor Who back in UK cinemas? Perhaps at Christmas when Doctor Who returns for ‘Joy to the World’…

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