Doctor Who: how its recent box office suggests there’s a market for a movie

Day Of The Doctor

It’s been a good few years now since there was any talk of Doctor Who heading back to the movies. Since the two feature films starring Peter Cushing back in the 1960s, there’s been occasional chatter about a big screen outing for the Time Lord, but nothing has come to pass.

The closest we got was a few years back, when it was revealed that Harry Potter director David Yates was involved in a possible film version. The problem? Steven Moffat, the now-outgoing executive producer and head writer for Doctor Who, wasn’t involved. Whether discussions actually got too far is unclear, but the Doctor Who film project was quietly shelved. David Yates is in the midst of making five Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them movies, so it’s a fair bet he’s out, too.

But we do still wonder if the Doctor will return to the big screen, given its recent box office performance. Twice in the Steven Moffat era of the show, Doctor Who episodes have enjoyed simultaneous cinema screenings.

Day Of The Doctor

Day Of The Doctor

The highest profile example was the 50th anniversary special, The Day Of the Doctor. This played on 440 screens around the UK on November 23rd 2013, with some sites programming extra screenings too. The result was a bountiful £1.8m of takings across the weekend, primarily from one day of business. To put that into context, The Family – a comedy with Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert De Niro – opened the same weekend, and took less than a third of Doctor Who’s money. The week before, The Counsellor – a high profile movie star-laden project, directed by Ridley Scott – had failed to break £1m.

Other films released around the same time that Doctor Who outgrossed on their opening weekend included Ender’s Game, the remake of Carrieand Riddick.

As Steven Moffat noted around the time of The Day Of The Doctor, “television just handed cinema its own arse”.

For the start of the Peter Capaldi era of the show, then, BBC Worldwide tried to repeat the trick. Deep Breath was the episode concerned, and it was simultaneously screened in cinemas again, at the same time the episode showed on BBC One. The results weren’t bad, but less impressive. A take of £523,000 from its single showing suggested that it wasn’t such an event episode in the same way The Day Of The Doctor was. Still, the single screening nearly matched the entire weekend box office gross of the fun Daniel Radcliffe rom-com, What If. It’s likely the BBC had hoped for more, but even so, it was hardly shabby.

Deep Breath

Deep Breath

Still: it’s likely that the lesser box office of Deep Breath though dissuaded the BBC from trying cinema screenings again (although it’s been having a go with Sherlock instead, but that’s for another article). However: there’s clear enthusiasm for Doctor Who on the big screen, should the BBC be tempted to roll the dice. It wouldn’t be the cheapest BBC show to bring to the movies, granted. But still, there’s something there.

Over to Chris Chibnall, perhaps.