The launches last weekend of Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music and Alister Grierson’s Bloody Hell underline the challenges facing independent films in a theatrical market that is severely weakened by the Victorian shutdown, limits on seating capacity and the absence of Hollywood tentpoles.
Universal mounted a substantial marketing campaign for Jordan’s romantic drama based on the Tim Winton novel, while Grierson’s dark comedic thriller opened on 50 screens across the Event Cinemas, Birch Carroll & Coyle and Greater Union circuits.
Starring Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Hedlund and David Wenham, Dirt Music grossed $188,000 on 201 screens and $300,000 including previews, more than a year after its world premiere in Toronto.
Exhibitors were disappointed. “I would definitely have expected more from a high profile Aussie film based on a best seller,” Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari tells IF.
Majestic Cinemas’ CEO Kieren Dell says: “Dirt Music has been struggling; I think it has been hard to translate to the screen and get the interest that other Tim Winton adaptations had.”
However Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard observes: “It’s not a rush-out kind of film so hopefully audiences will discover it in time.”
Grierson’s thriller starring Ben O’Toole, Caroline Craig, Matthew Sunderland, Travis Jeffery, Jack Finsterer and newcomers Meg Fraser and David Hill took $22,000.
To be fair, the Australian B.O. takings may represent only a small portion of their global revenues. Dirt Music had a multi-platform release in the US in July via Samuel Goldwyn Films while Arclight Films pitched Bloody Hell to buyers at the virtual American Film Market.
Among other Oz titles in cinemas, Kriv Stenders’ Slim & I has collected $360,000 after its fifth frame for Universal and Hayley MacFarlane’s Swimming for Gold has pocketed $138,000 after its fourth.
The Walt Disney Co’s decision to premiere Pixar Animation’s Soul, previously dated in cinemas on January 1, on Disney+ has dismayed exhibitors.
“Films getting dumped on streaming and bypassing theatrical in markets that are open and ready and desperately in need of major new films is just plain lazy and shows a complete disregard for exhibition,” Temesvari says.
“We’ve been told numerous times over the last seven months by the major studios that they are ‘committed to the theatrical experience and that it’s a global market,’ yet almost every week there is a decision made overseas that goes completely against those clearly empty platitudes.
“I’m grateful to our local distributor partners who are doing their very best in providing us new content each week but unfortunately we will need much more innovation and collaboration to truly turn things around. Right now release dates are absolutely meaningless and we have to act and plan like major Hollywood films don’t exist.”
Wallis Cinema’s senior advisor Bob Parr says: “I can see Disney’s dilemma with supply to Disney+. They need product from cinemas to supplement product made exclusively for streaming. However losing Soul is sad for cinemas.”
Numero reported the top 20 titles generated just $3.3 million last weekend, 17 per cent down on the previous frame.
Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour was No 1, drawing $780,000 on 238 screens in its fourth outing. The family comedy has banked almost $6.5 million so it will end up making less than half the $17.8 million lifetime total of Trolls in 2016.
Studiocanal’s The Secret Garden ranked second, advancing to $2.5 million after scoring $394,000 in its fourth.
Warner Bros’ Tenet bagged $348,000 in its seventh to reach $11.3 million. Chris Nolan’s spy thriller has amassed in US dollars $323.3 million worldwide led by China’s $66.2 million, the US’s underwhelming $48.3 million, the UK’s $21.8 million, France’s $21.4 million, Japan’s $19.2 million and Germany’s $17.2 million.
The Outpost, the Rod Lurie-directed military thriller adapted from CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s book, opened on 164 screens, delivering a mediocre $286,000 for Roadshow.
Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom, Jack Kesy, Taylor John Smith, Jacob Scipio and Milo Gibson star in the saga about a small unit of US soldiers in combat with the Taliban during the Afghan War in 2009.
Among the other new releases, Chinese anthology My People, My Homeland snared an impressive $178,000 on 39 screens for China Lion Film while Kiwi writer-director Sam Kelly’s gangland drama Savages, a big hit in its homeland, rang up $88,000 on 39 screens for Madman Entertainment.
WB’s misfire Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! has fetched a tame $1.2 million after adding $206,000 in its third while Roadshow’s Antebellum has $735,000 after plunging by 44 per cent to $188,000 in its second.
Village’s Chard is hopeful of an upturn in attendances by older patrons in the next few weeks as Transmission Films launches Hope Gap, William Nicholson’s drama starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy, on Thursday, R&R Films weighs in with Mark Lamprell’s Never Too Late on October 22 and Roadshow unleashes Jeremy Sims’ RAMS on October 29.