'Godzilla vs. Kong'.

Warner Bros.’ Godzilla vs. Kong has posted the highest opening weekend of any film post-COVID, in a hopeful sign that audiences are ready to come back to cinemas for blockbusters.

Opening on 557 screens, the Queensland-shot monster flick amassed $7.7 million, or $8.1 million with previews, a result that already eclipses the lifetime cume of Godzilla: King of Monsters.

That figure alone is also more than the entire national box office last weekend, when receipts totalled just $5.9 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong opens in the US this week, but has already made US$122 million internationally. In China, it captured 82 per cent of the market, making it the biggest foreign title of both 2020 and 2021.

IMAX grosses make up around 10 per cent of the international figure. The film was similarly a success at IMAX Melbourne, with GM Richard Morrison telling IF the on screen spectacle of the monster brawl has been a big drawcard.

This past weekend was the strongest weekend for IMAX since reopening in November, driven by our two new releases, Godzilla Vs. Kong 3D and exclusive IMAX documentary, Great Barrier Reef 3D,” IMAX Melbourne general manager Richard Morrison tells IF.

“For the Godzilla Vs. Kong paid previews on Wednesday March 24, IMAX was the top-grossing theatre in Australia and we maintained those strong numbers across the weekend with multiple sold-out sessions.” 

‘Peter Rabbit 2’.

The Animal Logic Entertainment co-produced Peter Rabbit 2, shot in Sydney, opened on $2.7 million from 490 screens for Sony, with many exhibitors expecting the film to get a boost next week as school holidays start around the country.

The strong result was only $900K behind the opening of the 2018 original film, which was obviously released into quite a different market.

Overall the top 20 titles amassed $12.6 million, up a staggering 150 per cent on the previous, according to Numero.

It is an incredibly positive result for cinemas with the weekend having also marked the end of JobKeeper.

Village Cinemas had an “absolutely cracking” weekend, according to film programming manager Geoff Chard.

“Saturday was by far our biggest trading day since the COVID period began. Godzilla vs. Kong was the clear #1 title, selling out Gold Class sessions across multiple sites.

Peter Rabbit 2 really fired for us as well, with our Fountain Gate and Southland locations ranking as the two highest grossing locations in the country (largely thanks to our Vjunior experience). Our cinemas in Victoria are currently still limited to 75 per cent capacity,” he tells IF.

“This week we open Nobody on April 1, which could be a sleeper hit with its 95 per cent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, along with Tom & Jerry The Movie (just in time for the school holidays), The Benedict Cumberbatch cold war thriller The Courier, and the critically acclaimed The Father starring Anthony Hopkins and Oliva Colman.

“The Easter long weekend is traditionally one of our highest grossing weekends of the year, and with a solid line-up of films it really feels like the movies are back!”

For circuits such as South Australia’s Wallis Cinemas, Godzilla vs. Kong saw the return of a key audience group it hadn’t seen in cinemas for a long time. Or as film programming manager David Simpson puts it: “Big film, big screen, big crowds. Ecstatic!”

On Friday, the Federal Government threw indie exhibitors a lifeline with the $20 million Supporting Cinemas’ Retention Endurance and Enhancement of Neighbourhoods (SCREEN) Fund.

To be administered by Screen Australia, the fund will allow independent cinema circuits to apply for one-off grants of up to $85,000 if they have faced significant declines in revenue.

It follows extensive lobbying by Independent Cinemas Australia (ICA), whose members make up around 30 per cent of all cinemas in Australia.

The move has been welcomed by indie operators, with release schedules still in flux; Disney overhauled the release of upcoming titles such as Black Widow last week.

Majestic Cinemas Kieren Dell, who is also the vice-president of ICA, tells IF: “It will effectively fund 4-5 more months of JobKeeper for us, by which time we are hopeful to be back to a normal release pattern and audience numbers.”

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari is happily surprised by the result.

“Hats off to ICA for fighting the good fight on this one and mounting a strong campaign to push for this much needed funding for the industry,” he tells IF.

“A major win for all of the independent exhibition community.”

Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly has welcomed the move, but notes some uncertainty remains as there is little detail available so far beyond a link on the Screen Australia website.

“We are all still facing an upcoming slate where sure-fire hits are few and far between – an issue exacerbated for arthouses by the absence of many Q1 and Q2 international film festivals.”

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon fell 65 per cent in its fourth frame, taking $505,771 to advance to $5.7 million.

Also in its fourth, stablemate Nomadland rang up $239,325, with the Oscar favourite now on $2.7 million.

Roadshow’s dystopian actioner Chaos Walking reached $3.5 million after earning $208,529, also its fourth. The film will also be available on PVOD from this Thursday at $24.99 for rental or $29.99 to won.

Now 13 weeks in, fellow Roadshow title The Dry now sits on $20.4 million after notching another $167,891 in a week where star and producer Eric Bana held a number of Q&As. That figure means the film now surpasses the gross of The Dressmaker, making it the 13th highest grossing Australian title of all time.

WB’s The Little Things earned $165,198 in its sixth week, with its cume now $5.5 million. Australia is the top theatrical market for the film worldwide.

The Oscar-nominated The Father, still in previews for Sharmill ahead of this Thursday, proved the eighth highest grossing title of week with $131,295 from 99 screens.

Sony’s French Exit stumbled 40 per cent in its second frame, earning $129,799. The Michelle Pfeiffer drama now sits on $478,993.

Rounding out the top 10 was Little Monster Entertainment’s Hi, Mom, which fell 52 per cent in its second to earn $119,853, moving to $478,993. Only on 33 films, the Chinese comedy still boasts the third best screen average of the week behind Godzilla vs. Kong and Peter Rabbit 2 at $3,745.

With regards to the other Aussie titles still in release, Penguin Bloom sits on $7.4 million after 10 weeks, Girls Can’t Surf $523,036 after three weeks, and High Ground is just shy of $3 million after nine weeks.

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