‘A Star is Born.’ (Photo: Warner Bros)

While Hollywood films usually open day-and-date in Australia, staggering the release here can a smart tactic, and so it proved last weekend for A Star is Born.

Warner Bros’ musical romance took $42.9 million in its first weekend in the US three weeks ago, an impressive figure that was dwarfed by Sony’s unforeseen blockbuster Venom, which grabbed $80 million.

Avoiding that head-to-head confrontation in Oz paid off handsomely as the Bradley Cooper-Lady Gaga movie had a stellar debut, WB’s biggest of the year so far.

Meanwhile romantic comedy Badaai Ho drew plenty of Bollywood fans and Lorna Tucker’s biopic Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist and Ukrainian dark comedy Donbass failed to cut through.

Stephen McCallum’s crime drama 1% had a modest start but is already a big success commercially, with sales to the US and more than a dozen major markets, and the director is weighing several offers.

The top 20 titles harvested $13.3 million, down 16 per cent on the prior weekend according to Numero.

The fourth iteration of A Star is Born (the first was in 1937, followed by Judy Garland’s in 1954 and Barbra Streisand’s in 1976), Cooper’s film rang up $6 million and $6.7 million on 537 screens including previews, delighting exhibitors. The US haul is a terrific $126.3 million.

“A stellar opening for Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut promises to be followed by a long season thanks to excellent word-of-mouth,” Cinema Nova general manager Kristian Connelly tells IF. “The want-to-see for A Star is Born sucked up all the oxygen for the other upscale openers, resulting in soft starts for 1%, Donbass and the Westwood documentary.”

Venom is still packing a punch, scoring nearly $2 million in its third weekend, which elevated the total to $18.8 million. Directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer, the Marvel superhero adventure has amassed $461.8 million worldwide, with international markets generating $290.7 million, eclipsing domestic’s $171.1 million.

Damien Chazelle’s First Man fell to Earth after its soft launch, plunging by 52 per cent to $1.1 million. The Neil Armstrong biopic starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke and Corey Stoll has pocketed $4.1 million here and a sub-par $30 million in the US for Universal. If there is one positive, it’s that declines at upscale-skewing venues were less severe than at multiplexes. Wallis Cinemas’ Bob Parr observed: “The initial internet blogs were positive but now I’m seeing many which are negative.”

Word-of-mouth isn’t helping Drew Goddard’s thriller Bad Times at the El Royale, which plunged by 51 per cent to $600,000 in its second weekend, banking nearly $2.2 million. No doubt Fox had hoped for a whole lot more given the stellar cast cast led by Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Dakota Johnson and Jon Hamm.

A real crowd-pleaser, Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black ascended to $10.26 million after earning $536,000 in its fifth outing for Sony, and is heading for $12 million-plus.

Universal’s Johnny English Strikes Again stole $413,000 in its fifth frame to reach $12.7 million, overtaking the lifetime total of Johnny English: Reborn. The spy adventure comedy starring Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko and Emma Thompson, which opens in the US on Thursday, has collected a tidy $96 million internationally.

Warner Bros’ animated blockbuster Smallfoot scampered along to $12.4 million after a fifth frame of $344,000, easily outperforming the US total of $66.9 million.

Directed by Amit Ravindernath Sharma, Badaai Ho, a caper about a middle-aged woman who gets unexpectedly pregnant to the consternation of the rest of the family, nabbed $269,000 on 27 screens for Forum Films.

Malcolm D. Lee’s comedy Night School has generated a decent $5.4 million for Universal after ringing up $244,000 in its fourth weekend.

Warner’s sleeper hit Crazy Rich Asians isn’t done yet, mustering $220,000 in its eighth weekend and $23.9 million thus far.

The eccentric British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood did not authorise Tucker’s documentary, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. She issued a statement decrying the film as mediocre and lamenting the paucity of footage of her as an activist, not a good omen for the Madman release which fetched $32,000 on 19 screens and $44,000 with festival screenings and previews.

Writer/director Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass, which chronicles the social breakdown in the Donbass region of his homeland, eked out $6,000 on 10 screens and $17,000, including sneaks, for The Backlot Studios.

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