'Dream Horse'. (Photo: Kerry Brown/© 2020 Dream Horse Films Limited and Channel Four Television Corporation)

New releases Dream Horse and Spirit Untamed failed to make a major dent in the box office over the weekend, with audiences continuing to flock to The Conjuring 3, A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella.

In Melbourne, cinemagoers were treated to all the aforementioned titles for the first time, with results suggesting some pent up demand. Cinemas reopened on Friday following more than two weeks of lockdown, albeit under restriction – theatres can only reopen up to 25 per cent of capacity, or 50 people per venue.

Dream Horse, starring Toni Collette and Damian Lewis, follows the true story of Dream Alliance, an unlikely racehorse bred by small-town bartender Jan Vokes. The drama bowed on a reasonable $684,875 for Sony (Thursday-Sunday) from 301 screens, and with previews is on $771,581.

Close behind was Dreamworks/Universal’s animated feature Spirit Untamed, the second film in the franchise, which amassed a respectable $663,711 from 234, taking it to $1.3 million with previews.

In limited release via Vendetta, Kiwi film Cousins opened on $83,344 from 66, or $87,707 with previews. Directed by Briar Grace-Smith and Ainsley Gardiner, and starring Tanea Heke, Rachel House and Chelsie Preston Crayford, the drama follows Maori cousins through tumultuous decades after one of them is taken from her family and raised in an orphanage.

Trafalgar Releasing also found some success with concert film Bon Jovi From Encore Nights, which opened on $79,784 from 60 screens.

‘Spirit Untamed’. (Photo: © 2021 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Through Sunday the top 20 titles amassed $7.4 million, down 4 per cent on the previous, according to Numero. The weekend was a long weekend in most states for the Queen’s Birthday, except Queensland and Western Australia.

There are promising times ahead for cinemas, with this weekend to see the release of Universal’s Fast & Furious 9, and when school holidays begin the week after, Warner Bros.’ In The Heights and Roadshow’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Exhibitors are reporting strong results from previews for both latter titles.

Among Victorian exhibitors, there is hope that some of the capacity restrictions will ease as COVID cases subside.

“Despite the stop-start nature of the fourth Victorian lockdown and the continued supply problems to meet the current demand for vaccines, the Queen’s Birthday long weekend indicates that amid a lack of out-of-home entertainment options, cinema continues to be highly attractive for audiences – particularly as the quality of cinema releases improves as overseas markets open-up,” Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly tells IF.

The Conjuring: Those Who Wish Me Dead held at no. 1 for the second week running, amassing $2.2 million, a drop of only 23 per cent, taking the title to $5.9 million for WB.

Now three weeks in, A Quiet Place Part II cracked $10 million for Paramount after making another $1.7 million. In the US, the film – the first blockbuster in months to play exclusively in theatres – has crossed $US100 million, and internationally earned another $US80 million.

Despite a simultaneous PVOD release on Disney+, Cruella continues to draw a crowd, falling just 1 per cent in its third frame to earn $1.3 million. The Emma Stone and Emma Thompson-starrer now sits on $5 million overall.

Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2 is proving to be an Energizer bunny, drawing another $127,978 in its 12th frame to move to $21.3 million. The title, which opened territories such as the US and China over the weekend, is already the highest grossing local film of the year.

Wrath of Man tumbled 55 per cent in its seventh frame to earn $124,285, moving to $7.2 million for Studiocanal.

Rounding out the top 10 was WB’s Those Who Wish Me Dead, which is now on $3.2 million after five weeks.

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