'Joe Bell'. (Photo: Quantrell D. Colbert, courtesy of Roadside Attractions).

It was déjà vu at the box office last weekend, with the same three titles leading receipts: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Free Guy and Paw Patrol: The Movie.

School holiday audiences are keeping things turning over amid few notable new releases. Closures in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as parts of regional NSW and Victoria, in addition to capacity restrictions, continue to impact the market.

“The capacity restrictions in our regional Victorian complexes are really impacting our potential box office during the school holidays, however we are getting some decent results from our Tasmanian complexes. Our partner complex at Albury reopened on Thursday, and our Geelong complex reopened today after a snap 7 day lockdown,” Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is still our number 1 film, followed by Free Guy which has held in very well thanks to the weekday school holidays business. Paw Patrol: The Movie rounds out the top 3, being the #1 choice for families.”

While Majestic Cinemas, operating in parts of regional NSW and Queensland, has its sites open, CEO Kieren Dell tells IF the pandemic is still hampering numbers.

“The biggest impact has been COVID cases and scares at different sites which have reduced numbers at places like Port Macquarie as COVID encroaches. Without visitors from Sydney or Queensland, school holidays have been very flat overall, with a bump from normal but not nearly the normal-sized bump.”

Roadshow’s new release road drama Joe Bell, with its heavy subject matter, found it hard to compete against more escapist and family fare, opening on just $88,721 from 141 screens.

Directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green and starring Mark Warlberg, the film follows the true story of a working class father who set out on a solo walk across the US to crusade against bullying after his son (Reid Miller) is tormented in high school for being gay.

The film premiered at TIFF 2020, drawing mixed reviews from critics, and opened Stateside in July earning of $US1.4 million overall ($1.9 million).

Roadshow stablemate Time Is Up, an Italian romance starring Bella Thorne and Benjamin Mascolo, also didn’t garner much traction, with an opening of $48,773 from 131 screens, an average of just $372.

In terms of limited releases, audiences did come out for Trafalgar Releasing’s Oasis documentary Knebworth 1996, which bowed on $46,405 from 42 screens. There was strong appetite for Zee Studios’ Punjabi-language rom-com Qismat 2, which made $46,396 from 42 screens, and for Southern Star’s Telugu-language romance Love Story, which made $32,342 from just seven. Meanwhile Icon’s Canadian thriller Flashback, starring Dylan O’Brien, didn’t really stir, opening on just $33,126 from 68 screens.

According to Numero the top 20 titles tallied exactly the same as the previous weekend: $2.6 million.

Shang-Chi continues an easy lead on all other titles, pocketing another $893,670 in its fourth weekend for Disney to move to $6.9 million.

In North America, the film has so far collected $U196.5 million ($270.5 million), making that territory’s highest grossing film of 2021 and the pandemic-era, having outpaced fellow Marvel film Black Widow. Following Disney’s experiments with hybrid releasing, Shang Chi‘s success is being touted in certain camps as proof of the power of the theatrical window, and the MCU film is predicted to finish around $US250 million ($344 million).

Free Guy was up 3 per cent in its seventh weekend with $494,254, advancing the Disney title to $6.5 million.

Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Movie, Rialto’s Ainbo: Amazon Princess, Disney’s Jungle Cruise and Warner Bros.’ Space Jam: A New Legacy all saw significant boosts thanks to school holiday audiences.

For Paw Patrol, earnings were up 23 per cent on its opening weekend, pocketing $288,997 to move to $1.4 million, while Ainbo, also in its second frame, was up a whopping 67 per cent, with takings of $177,494 moving the animation to $445,290.

Jungle Cruise climbed 34 per cent in its ninth weekend, amassing $113,945, with its cume now $3.9 million.

The biggest jump went to Space Jam 2, which increased earnings by 99 per cent on the previous with $100,648. After 11 weekends, the sequel is now on $12 million.

Now eight weeks in, WB’s The Suicide Squad fell 33 per cent, earning $80,557 to move to $5.4 million, while Universal’s Aretha Franklin film, Respect, fell 57 per in its sixth frame, with receipts of $64,315 seeing it total $1.5 million.

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