We're over half way through 2015 and the feeling at the start of the year that it would be a banner year for cinema has proven to be true. By June, cinema admissions were 83.1m, which is up 10% from 2014 and the third highest January to June total since 1972. While the official July figures won't be available for another week, they will be significantly up on July 2014. The top five performing films at the box office in 2015 are already bigger than the top grossing film during 2014 and there are four more films between now and the end of the year that are likely to join them. The feeling though was always that the second half of the year would be when the real fireworks happen, and with two of the biggest properties in UK cinema released before Christmas, we could very well see records broken.
There's little more that needs to be said about SPECTRE, but that isn't going to stop me. It's following up the biggest film in UK history in Skyfall, which delivered over 10.5m admissions on the DCM estate (80% of UK admissions) and is the only film to cross the £100m mark in the UK. With the fiftieth anniversary of Bond in 2012 and Daniel Craig's appearance with the Queen at the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, a perfect storm of interest in the franchise helped lead to Skyfall's extraordinary performance, but perhaps most importantly, Sam Mendes elevated the level of craft of Bond films to a level that hadn't been seen before and managed to tap into the collective nostalgia for previous Bond films. There's no reason to think he won't be able to do something similar with SPECTRE.
Nostalgia has been an important factor in the success of some recent blockbusters, with Jurassic World, currently the eighth biggest film of all time in the UK, expertly playing on the fondness for the original Jurassic Park film. The nostalgia factor is going to get ramped up even further with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Few trailers have given me the warm fuzzy feeling I felt when Harrison Ford and Chewbacca appeared at the end of the latest Force Awakens trailer.
Aside from the twin behemoths of SPECTRE and Star Wars, some of cinema's most talented directors are releasing new films before the end of the year, that will stimulate the brain and the adrenal gland equally. Icelandic director, Baltasar Kormákur's first two US films were the impressive Contraband and the mildly disappointing, 2 Guns. Due out on 18 September, his latest, Everest, sees a fantastic cast of character actors whose names begin with the letter 'J' (Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes) embark on a climbing expedition to the world's highest peak. The scenes at the top of Everest look to be heart-stopping and this should pack a real emotional punch.
Twelve days after Everest, Ridley Scott returns to sci-fi with an adaptation of Andy Weir's best-seller, The Martian. Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney, who is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew on Mars. Unsurprisingly, Watney has survived and finds himself stranded on the hostile planet and has to draw upon his ingenuity to survive and signal to Earth that he's alive. Scott has assembled a typically terrific cast, including Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and few are better at sci-fi world building.
Robert Zemeckis is a filmmaking legend. Directing the Back to the Future trilogy would be enough but he's also responsible for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which is one of my personal favourites. His latest film, The Walk, is the story of French high-wire artist Philippe Petit's attempt to cross the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in 1974. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Petit and this will be best viewed in all its 3D IMAX, vertigo inducing glory, when it's released in October.
Fresh from the main competition at Cannes, Sicario sees French-Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve further cement his position as one of the most exciting new directors working in Hollywood. Emily Blunt plays idealistic FBI agent, Kate Macer, who is enlisted by an elite government task force official to aid in the escalating war against drugs. Villeneuve orchestrates some dynamite set pieces that will leave more than your palms sweaty.
One of the results of a schedule packed with top quality films is that distributors are selecting more and more unusual release strategies. Suffragette is a prime example, opening on a Monday, just five days after opening the London Film Festival. Whether it proves to be successful or not, it's shaping up to be a genuine awards contender and with a female director, female writer, female producers and predominantly female cast, it's an important one too.
Just four days after Suffragette, Guillermo Del Toro releases his latest gothic chiller, Crimson Peak. The casting is wonderful, the design is beautiful, for horror fans this is unmissable. Danny Boyle returns in November with the London Film Festival closing film, Steve Jobs. Aaron Sorkin scripts, Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet star. It should be a stunner.
Things start to get really hectic in late November, as the highly anticipated climax to the Hunger Games series is released and then just a week later Steven Spielberg returns with Bridge Of Spies. Any Spielberg film is an event, but the prospect of him teaming up with Tom Hanks and tackling a meaty cold war spy thriller is especially mouth-watering. The same day, Pixar releases their second film of 2015 and its first, Inside Out, is one of the very best this year, so hopes are high for The Good Dinosaur.
Finally, the year climaxes with Star Wars. There's much discussion in the DCM office on whether SPECTRE or The Force Awakens will be bigger. It's roughly a 50/50 split at the moment but one thing is certain, they'll be two of the biggest films of all time and that's an incredibly exciting situation for the cinema industry.