‘Never Too Late’ (Photo credit: Bradley Patrick).

The launches of the Liam Neeson action drama Honest Thief and Australian ‘geezer’ comedy Never Too Late helped reverse a three-week slide at cinemas last weekend.

But ticket sales remain depressed and the year-to-date national BO total through Sunday is $334 million, a woeful 67.5 per cent down on last year’s $1.03 billion.

Among the limited releases, Polish drama Corpus Christi posted the weekend’s highest per-screen average while US indie comedy-drama Kajillionaire struggled. The Taika Waititi-produced Kiwi comedy Baby, Done did not resonate either.

Numero reported the top 20 titles generated $2.28 million, 7 per cent up on the previous frame.

The feature writing and directing debut of Ozark co-creator Mark Williams, Honest Thief stole $696,000 on 206 screens and $722,000 with previews for Rialto, in line with the US results where it’s been No. 1 for three weeks in a COVID-19 devastated market.

Neeson plays Tom Carter, a bank robber whose heists have netted $9 million in a dozen years. He decides to go straight after falling in love with Annie (Kate Walsh), who runs the storage-locker business where he secretly stashes the cash. Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos play corrupt FBI agents who decide to keep the money and get Carter.

Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour advanced to $7.1 million after drawing $259,000 in its fifth frame, but, typifying how much the market has shrunk, will finish well below the original’s $17.8 million haul in 2016.

Roadshow’s City of Lies fell by 36 per cent to $179,000 in its second outing. The Brad Furman-directed thriller  starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker has collected a mediocre $543,000.

Director Mark Lamprell’s Never Too Late entered in fourth spot, generating $170,000 on 172 screens and $274,000 with advance screenings for R&R Films. The Adelaide-shot comedy starring Jack Thompson, James Cromwell, Dennis Waterman and Roy Billing as Vietnam Veterans who plan to break out of their retirement home was No. 1 in Wallis Cinema’s South Australian locations.

Roadshow’s decision to run previews of Jeremy Sims’ RAMS, which was the top title at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, affected Lamprell’s film in some locations.

RAMS previews did really well and bodes well for a great season but Never Too Late still did pretty well for us and both are getting great feedback,” says Majestic Cinemas’ CEO Kieren Dell. “Cross-trailering will hopefully see the target audience find both in coming weeks.”

Scripted by Luke Preston and produced by Antony I. Ginnane and David Lightfoot, Never Too Late has been a strong seller internationally. It was released in 33 hard tops and 32 virtual venues in the US by Blue Fox Entertainment before moving to digital platforms.

The international sales agent Myriad Pictures sold the film to multiple markets including the UK, where the distributor Studio is planning a theatrical release in February, pandemic permitting, China, HBO for Eastern Europe and MGM for Latin America.

‘Corpus Christi’

Studiocanal’s steady earner The Secret Garden moved up to $2.8 million after adding $117,000 in its sixth week.

Warner Bros’ Tenet has clocked $US341.4 million globally, including $11.8 million in Oz, ranked by John Stankey, CEO of WarnerMedia parent AT&T, as less than a home run.

Stankey said he did not regret the decision to release Chris Nolan’s thriller during the pandemic and the studio is still committed to putting “some of the content that we think is most important into the theatrical channel.”

But he warned: “We’re expecting this to be incredibly choppy moving into next year. We are not optimistic… not expecting a huge recovery in theatrical moving into the early part of next year.”

Palace launched director Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi, a drama inspired by the true story of a charismatic young ex-convict who fooled an entire Polish village by falsely posing as a priest, on 13 screens, making $58,000 and $79,000 including previews.

Trading at the Orpheum on Saturday and Sunday was up by more than 300 per cent on the previous weekend. Behind RAMS, the venue’s second most popular title was Madman Entertainment’s release of Katsuhiro Otomo’s restored 4K cult 1988 classic Akira, which grossed $88,000 on 51 screens nationally and $108,000 with advance screenings.

Directed by Sophie Henderson, Baby, Done stars Rose Matafeo as Zoe, a tree surgeon who becomes pregnant by her long-term boyfriend Tim (Matthew Lewis) and freaks out as she tries to rush through her dreams before she becomes a mother. The Madman release delivered $68,000 on 91 screens including sneaks.

Hayden Orpheum GM Alex Temesvari said: “I was extremely disappointed with Baby, Done due to the creative team and strong reviews and thought it would have mainstream appeal.”

Miranda July’s Kajillionaire , which follows con artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins), who spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam and steal, was a Sundance hit. But the comedy-drama was a modest performer in the US so the $29,000 debut on 22 screens for the Universal release wasn’t surprising.

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