Brie Larson in ‘Captain Marvel’ (Photo credit: Disney).

After a terrible start to the year with grosses down 12 per cent on the same period last year, Australian exhibitors had something to cheer about last weekend thanks to Disney/Marvel’s Captain Marvel.

Starring Brie Larson as the first female Marvel character to front her own movie, the sci-fi fantasy co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck notched the biggest debut of 2019 and an all-time record for March.

The estimated US launch of $US153 million ranks as the third biggest in March behind Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and Warner Bros’ Batman v. Superman. The global total of $US455 million was the sixth highest ever and the second best for a superhero film behind Avengers : Infinity War.

It is a triumph for many women behind the camera including co-director and writer Boden, co-screenwriter Geneva Robertson-Dworet, story credits for Meg LeFauve and Nicole Perlman, executive producers Victoria Alonso and Patricia Whitcher, composer Pinar Toptrak, co-editor Debbie Berman, art directors Elena Albanese and Lauren E. Polizzi, set decorator Lauri Gaffin and costume designer Sanja Milkovic Hay.

This weekend’s results bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s combined worldwide box office to $17.98 billion across 21 films.

Co-starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law and Annette Bening, Captain Marvel hauled in $13.6 million on 862 screens and $15.1 million including Wednesday night previews in Oz, 30 per cent ahead of Black Panther’s first weekend.

That single-handedly boosted the top 20 titles’ receipts to nearly $19 million, 93 per cent up on the prior weekend, according to Numero, and narrowed the year-to-date gap to 9 per cent.

There were varying degrees of uplift from the other new release including Indian imports Badla and Guddiyan Patole and specialised titles Everybody Knows, The House That Jack Built and The Price of Everything.

Sony Pictures’ A Dog’s Way Home ranked second, fetching $880,000 in its second weekend, easing by 31 per cent. Charles Martin Smith’s action adventure has generated $2.6 million here and $41.4 million in the US, not a promising start for what was supposed to kick off a franchise based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novels.

Peter Farrelly’s Green Book is enjoying a second life after winning three Oscars, advancing to $11.8 million after snaring $805,000 in its seventh outing for eOne. The race relations drama starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali has raked in $162.1 million internationally, including $44.2 million in China, more than double the domestic take.

Fox’s Alita: Battle Angel drew $468,000 in its fourth, reaching $10.2 million. Directed by Robert Rodriguez, the futuristic sci-fi adventure has bagged a mediocre $78.3 million in the US and an impressive $303.4 million in the rest of the world.

Moviegoers clearly are not appreciating the presence of British acting royalty in Michael Caine, Jim Broadbent, Tom Courtenay and Ray Winstone in James Marsh’s King of Thieves. The comedic drama based on the 2015 robbery of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company has collared $1.3 million for Studiocanal after plunging by 49 per cent to $332,000 in its second frame.

Adam Shankman’s comedy What Women Want is heading for the exit after mustering $304,000 in its fourth outing and $5.4 million thus far for Paramount.

So is Neil Jordan’s Greta. The thriller starring Isabelle Huppert and Chloë Grace Moretz has scraped up $972,000 for Universal after taking $291,000 in its second.

There’s no quit in Bohemian Rhapsody , which stands tall at $54.5 million after whistling up $222,000 in its 19th weekend for Fox. The Freddy Mercury biopic has rung up $215.3 million in the US and $660.6 million internationally, with China to come on March 22.

Stan & Ollie, Jon S Baird’s biopic of comic duo Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly, earned $215,000 in its third weekend for eOne, banking a decent $2 million.

Sujoy Ghosh’s Bollywood thriller Badla, which stars Amitabh Bachchan, Taapsee Pannu and Amrita Singh, caught $142,000 on 33 screens for Mind Blowing Films. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the distributor founded by Mitu Bhowmick Lange also released Guddiyan Patole, a Punjabi romantic comedy directed by Vijay Kumar Arora, collecting $131,000 on 33.

Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, a psychological thriller starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, yielded $110,000 on 25 screens for Universal but the total including festival screenings and previews is a respectable $345,000.

Umbrella Entertainment launched Lars von Trier’s The House That Jack Built, which stars Matt Dillon as a failed architect and arch-sociopath serial killer, on 13 screens, taking a meagre $18,000 and $22,000 with previews.

Nathaniel Kahn’s The Price of Everything, a feature documentary on the contemporary art world, drew just $8,000 on four screens for Madman Entertainment.

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