In a remarkable result, four Australian films – The Dry, Penguin Bloom, High Ground and Occupation: Rainfall – took home almost 50 per cent of the national box office last weekend.
The four titles together totaled $3.5 million, or 47 per cent of the total B.O of $7.5 million.
Such a strong local showing speaks to a variety of factors: the paucity of product from the US, good word-of-mouth and strong marketing campaigns by distributors.
The four titles’ performance is also a hopeful sign for the other Aussie films due in coming weeks, including documentary Wild Things (Potential Films), released this Thursday; dramas Long Story Short (Studiocanal) and Unsound (Filmink Presents) due on February 11; and Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s doco Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra (Icon) on February 18.
“With few Hollywood/international productions entering the market over the coming weeks, I expect this to continue for some time,” Village Cinemas national film programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.
Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly cannot recall a time when so many Australian features dominated at his cinema – he is even still having success with last year’s Babyteeth.
“To see so much audience support for local stories is gratifying not only for us as long-term supporters of Australian features but also for established and up-and-coming filmmakers,’ he tells IF.
“Let’s hope that the same audience enthusiasm is there once the Hollywood blockbusters return in a major way.”
Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari figures the lack of competition from Hollywood is helping the titles but adds: “It shows what a huge difference it makes when we have quality Australian films in release that actually appeal to audiences.”
Leading the box office nationally was Roadshow Films’ The Dry, with exhibitors marveling at the mystery drama’s legs.
The Robert Connolly adaptation of Jane Harper’s hit novel dropped only 1 per cent nationally in its fifth weekend to earn $1.4 million, taking its total to $14.6 million.
Stablemate Penguin Bloom, produced by the same company – Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Jodi Matterson’s Made Up Stories – is similarly showing staying power; it fell only 16 per cent in its sophomore weekend to earn $1.3 million. Directed by Glendyn Ivin and starring Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln and Jacki Weaver, the Sydney-set film now totals $4 million.
Madman Films launched High Ground, Stephen Maxwell Johnson’s frontier drama starring Simon Baker, Jack Thompson and newcomer Jacob Junior Nayinggul, on 234 screens to earn $615,036. With previews, the film sits on $916,880.
In particular, the 1930s-set film is finding success in the Top End where it was filmed. Two of the five best performing sites were in the Northern Territory, with Event Palmerston was the no. 1 performing site in the country and Event Casuarina no. 4.
Majestic Cinemas also found the film resonated in regional NSW, with CEO Kieren Dell telling IF: “High Ground had a really solid start, especially in some of our areas with a high Indigenous population like Kempsey and Nambucca Heads, indicating what an important and ground-breaking movie it is.”
Alien invasion sci-fi Occupational: Rainfall, Luke Sparke’s sequel to his 2018 film Occupation, came in at ninth, opening on $202,863 from 182 screens for Monster Pictures.
Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson was disappointed it didn’t fare better, saying: “Mad Max meets Starship Troopers – what’s not to like?”
Dell is hopeful that with time, the film will find its audience. “Occupation: Rainfall had a slow start but is actually a good movie and may just take some time for word-of-mouth to get around,” he says.
“It is refreshing to see that we can make movies other than relatively low budget drama/comedy/thriller and can make a decent mid-budget sci-fi genre movie with Australian accents and scenery. I’m sure it will do well internationally, but it is a tougher market for that genre in Australia and especially in the regions with older population.”
Overall the top 20 titles earned $7.1 million according to Numero, down 9 per cent on the previous.
With few titles currently in the market for families, Croods: A New Age is another film that has found staying power, earning $860,939 in its sixth frame to advance to $19.8 million for Universal. That is not far off the 2013 original, which made $24.1 million.
Madman’s Liam Neeson thriller The Marksman held fourth position over its second weekend, netting $664,805 to take its total to just over $2 million.
Despite being available on PVOD since last Wednesday, WB’s Wonder Woman 1984 still earned $576,585 in its sixth orbit, suggesting there is still an audience keen to see the film in cinemas. Overall, the film has notched $23.9 million, with Australia the third best performing market internationally behind the US and China.
Roadshow’s Promising Young Woman delivered $353,748 over its third weekend, up 3 per cent, to bring takings to $2.6 million.
Now more than nine weeks in release, Universal’s The War On Grandpa is still drawing a sizable crowd with earnings of $269,961. Overall the Robert de Niro comedy stands at $9.5 million.
Rounding out the top 10 was Roadshow’s Dragon Rider, with the animated feature collecting $156,097 in its fifth frame to advance to $2.6 million.