'Freaky'.

Universal/Blumhouse’s comedy horror Freaky may have opened on top of the box office last weekend, but reopened cinemas in Victoria saw Warner Bros.’ Tenet only a step behind.

Directed and co-written by Christopher Landon, Freaky is a play on Freaky Friday that sees a high school student unintentionally switch bodies with a serial killer.

Starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton, the film has received positive reviews, boasting a 85 per cent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Locally it posted $586,260 from some 266 screens, while global takings stand at $USD5.6 million.

Yet perhaps the most notable performer of the weekend was Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, which jumped a whopping 496 per cent on the previous frame to ring up $578,999 from 149 screens; the largest screen average of the week.

That revival is attributable to Victorian cinemas, which were able to reopen last week after five months of lockdown.

Such a boost for the thriller meant Australia was the second highest performing market for the film last weekend after the US. Overall, it has made $12.7 million in Australia and $USD353.5 million globally.

Village Cinemas national film programming manager Geoff Chard is pleased with the reopening of Victorian sites, many of which have been closed since March. Tenet was by far the no. 1 title, accounting for more than 40 per cent of the box office, followed by Trolls World Tour and Unhinged.

“Even with a maximum occupancy of 20 people per auditorium, we were still able to pull in some decent crowds,” he tells IF.

This week the major will add After We Collided to schedules, along with a handful of other titles including Chinese films My People, My Homeland and Jiang Ziya: Legend of Deification.

Kristian Connelly, CEO of Carlton’s Cinema Nova, is similarly encouraged by the first seven days of trade, despite the 20 person cap and the extended cleaning times required between sessions.

The exhibitor ranked ninth nationally over the four day weekend. Connelly is hopeful that with no COVID-19 cases in Victoria for 17 days, absent demographics will return to the movies “sooner rather than later”.

“The top film this past weekend was the highly anticipated Tenet, followed by the reissue of Bong Joon Ho’s Memories of Murder, Miranda July’s exceptional art-comedy Kajillionaire and AACTA award nominee Babyteeth,” he tells IF.

Rams opened a little lower down the ranking than anticipated, but this may be skewed by older audiences being a little slower to return to the cinema than other states which are more progressed with arresting COVID. The films that are at the top of the box office rankings are those which appeal to a younger audience. Advance screenings of documentary Brazen Hussies have been well attended, with some shows selling out.”

Overall the top 20 titles generated $3.3 million, up a welcome 34 per cent from the previous weekend, according to Numero.

While Victoria boosted numbers, exhibitors elsewhere in the country report either slow or average trading. Notably, no title made over $600,000.

‘The Comeback Trail’.

Besides Freaky, the only major new release was crime comedy The Comeback Trail. A remake of the 1982 film of the same name, it packs a stellar cast in stars Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, Zach Braff and Emile Hirsch but has received middling reviews. Overall it earned $230,489 from 245 screens for Madman.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell says good weather in some parts of NSW seemed to keep moviegoing down.

Rams has continued to be a big hit,” he tells IF. “The Comeback Trail was pretty soft and left a few scratching their heads! Freaky did OK in some places and is a lot of fun.”

David Simpson, programming manager for South Australia’s Wallis Cinemas tells IF Rams and Radioactive were the top performing titles at its sites, in line with previous weeks. “Freaky performed comparatively well. With any luck and good word-of-mouth it might hold okay for its second week.”

Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari says The Comeback Trail performed as expected. “It got over the line with us due to the phenomenal cast but we knew what we were in for.”

For the exhibitor, it’s currently alternative content, live shows and private hires that are making the difference. “I would hate to think where we would be without this kind of programming and I’m grateful that my team and I have both the resources and passion to evolve our venue at a time like this.”

Now in its third frame, Roadshow’s RAMS dropped 25 per cent to take $503,694 from 326 screens. Overall, the Jeremy Sims comedy drama, starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton as warring sheep farmer brothers, is sitting just shy of $3 million. That performance puts it on track to become the second highest performing Australian film of the year behind pre-COVID release The Invisible Man.

Liam Neeson-starrer Honest Thief clocked another $377,567 for Rialto in its fourth frame, advancing to just under $2.5 million.

Universal’s Trolls World Tour was delivered a 67 per cent boost thanks to Victorian cinemas, ringing up $282,980 in its ninth week. Overall, the animation has made $7.8 million; the 2016 original earned $17.8 million.

Studiocanal’s Radioactive, starring Rosemund Pike as Nobel Prize-winning scientist Marie Curie, dropped 25 per cent in its second week to $133,672, advancing to $378,505.

Road rage thriller Unhinged also scored a lift from Victorians, jumping a staggering 358 per cent to ring up $86,153. Now 16 weeks in release, the Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius-starrer has made just under $3.7 million for Studiocanal.

Sony’s The Craft: Legacy tumbled some 48 per cent to take just $86,153 in its third frame. The sequel to the 1996 cult film The Craft now sits on $570,853.

Rounding out the top 10 was local geezer comedy, R & R Films Never Too Late, which clocked $74,641 from 175 screens. Directed by Mark Lamprell and starring James Cromwell, Jack Thompson and Jacki Weaver, the film has made $775,117 in four weeks.

Catherine Dwyer documentary Brazen Hussies was up 10 per cent in its second frame to earn $15K from 27 screens. The story of the Women’s Liberation Movement in Australia, it sits on on $52K so far for distributor Film Art Media, who is a pursuing a platform campaign. It will add another 14 regional cinemas from Thursday.

Executive producer Sue Maslin tells IF: “We are seeing the signs of word of mouth kicking in and expect the numbers will only get stronger as Melbourne opens up capacity.”

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