TV sitcom spin-off The Inbetweeners Movie has now taken more than £27.7m at the UK box office – the biggest opening for a live action comedy in any country.
That’s some achievement for a film which essentially concludes story arcs originating on the small screen.
Though my involvement in the film extends no further than paying to see it, reviewing it and writing about its success, I think there’s something very rewarding about seeing a British movie do so well the box office.
Most summers we hand over our money to the local multiplex only for the lion’s share to be ferreted off to Hollywood to fund more films aimed primarily at US audiences.
Now here’s a very British, domestic film wiping the floor with Hollywood’s carefully focus-grouped, slickly marketed, CGI-laden efforts.
What lessons are there for other UK filmmakers from this film’s success?
Is it simply that if you make high quality, relevant films the audience will come see them?
Or in these days of endless franchises, reboots and remakes is the success of The Inbetweeners merely proof that audiences will flock to the familiar when parting with their cash?
I suspect the answer is a mixture of the two and that the second part could be a vital factor in the revival of the British film industry.
The film’s box office dominance is clearly connected to success of the TV original but the failure of past ‘TV to cinema’ sitcom transfers proves just having an established audience isn’t enough.
The team behind The Inbetweeners seemed to know this.
Whether by design or accidental brilliance they managed to end the TV series while the audience still wanted more and then use the film to tell a story larger than a weekly sitcom would allow while keeping true to the show.
I know several people who didn’t expect Will’s voiceovers to make the transfer to the big screen yet The Inbetweeners isn’t The Inbetweeners without them.
The inclusion of these and other elements such as the Simon/Carly relationship means the film is a natural part of the story TV viewers have been enjoying for the past three years.
Why’s this important for future British films?
Much of Hollywood’s output is franchise based, either reboots of existing film franchises or big screen adaptions of comics, cartoons and TV shows.
Audiences going to see them have some idea what they’re in for which is always a big factor when people are spending their money. Plus of course, those big brands are commissioned because the source material is already popular.
It’s that last part which British films tend to struggle with. Without an existing successful franchise to build on, UK films so often end up being standalone ‘nice’ films which do ok but rarely set the world alight.
Yet British TV has a number of successful shows which could transfer to the big screen – see Torchwood, Being Human and Spooks – and with the right foresight broadcasters could commission shows with the expectation that they’ll then move on to the local multiplex.
As with The Inbetweeners, the TV run would build an audience, get the brand known and end with ample room for big screen adventures.
Though The Inbetweeners are probably no-one’s idea of a role model, their box office success could be a profitable example to follow.