The British box office enjoyed its best year since 1970 as a combination of homegrown hits and Hollywood blockbusters kept cinemas packed last year.
Britons went to the cinema 177m times in 2018, the highest number since 1970, when hits including M*A*S*H, Love Story and Airport helped attract 193m admissions, according to the UK Cinema Association. Last year’s figure is just ahead of the 176m admissions in 1971, when Diamonds are Forever, The French Connection and Dirty Harry were on the big screen.
The lack of a Star Wars blockbuster failed to dampen enthusiasm, with attendance rising thanks to a diverse slate of US and domestic films. The top 10 films at the UK box office last year included Avengers: Infinity War, Mamma Mia! Here we go again, Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Greatest Showman.
Cinema attendance in the US also grew strongly, up 7.4% with 1.3bn tickets sold, according to Box Office Mojo. The rise is a welcome bounceback for the world’s biggest movie market, which in 2017 recorded the lowest attendance levels since 1992, prompting fears that cinema-going might finally be feeling the impact of the rise of streaming services such as Netflix.
“Services like Netflix and Amazon and Apple’s iTunes have certainly been disrupters, especially Netflix, in home entertainment,” said Tim Richards, the chief executive of Vue International.
“But they haven’t impacted our business. I’ve lived through the arrival of the DVD, Blu-ray discs, the internet and every time doomsayers have predicted the ultimate demise of the industry. But every time we have seen cinema do the opposite and grow.”