'The Little Things'.

Crime thriller The Little Things is the first new release in weeks to succeed in knocking Robert Connolly’s The Dry from the no. 1 position at the box office.

The John Lee Hancock-directed neo-noir follows two detectives (Denzel Washington and Rami Malek) as they investigate a string of murders that lead them to a strange loner who may be the culprit (Jared Leto, who is nominated for a Golden Globe for the role).

The film opened on $1.4 million from 276 screens over the weekend, or $1.8 million with previews.

That makes Australia the second best performing market worldwide, second only to the US where has been released in cinemas and on HBO Max simultaneously.

Other new releases included Lee Isaac Chung’s Oscar hopeful Minari, which Madman opened on 59 screens to bring in $172,309, or $276,226 with previews.

Winner of the Sundance US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the US Dramatic Audience Award, the semi-autobiographical film starring Steven Yeun follows a South Korean family who emigrate to rural US during the 1980s.

Wayne Blair and Nel Minchin’s AACTA Award winning documentary, Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra, opened small on $34,870 for Icon from 99 screens ($82,678 with previews), though exhibitors are hopeful word-of-mouth will spread.

The film documents the story of brothers Stephen, David and Russell Page and how they started the Indigenous dance company in Sydney.

‘Firestarter – The Story of Bangarra’.

The top 20 titles amassed just $4.7 million, down 1 per cent on the previous, according to Numero. That made it the worst weekend for cinemas in 2021, as exhibitors hold tight for major releases such as Raya and the Last Dragon (March 4, Disney) and Godzilla vs Kong (Warner Bros., March 25).

In Victoria, cinemas reopened on Thursday morning following a snap lockdown in the state.

Village Cinemas film programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF it was a “relief” to see its Victorian sites reopen, with the memory of the eight months of cinema closures in the state all too fresh.

“We were all worried that the five days would extend into a much longer period of time,” he said.

“But the Victorian share on The Little Things was down significantly (at only 21.6 per cent), which was surprising given it was the biggest film by far nationally.

Minari didn’t quite open as well as we’d hoped, however reviews and WOM are excellent so hopefully it will have decent legs (particularly with the Academy Award nominations being announced in around three weeks’ time).

“And not the greatest opening for Firestarter either, taking only $35k. But again reviews are excellent and I wouldn’t be surprised if the box office actually increases into week two.”

Kristian Connelly, CEO of Carlton’s Cinema Nova, had expected a promising ‘reopening’ weekend, despite Melbourne audiences still readjusting to the “new, new, new normal”.

It found success with Minari, the Oscar shortlisted Danish booze dramedy Another Round (Umbrella) and Sony’s Italian doco The Truffle Hunters, as well as Aussie titles The Dry, High Ground and Firestarter.

However, promotion was made more challenging when the cinema ended up caught up in the Facebook news ban, with its page scrubbed until it with reinstated Sunday.

“Cinema Nova ranked second nationally on Firestarter, but the film’s trade was cruelled by the inability to use social media to extol the film’s excellent reviews as well as a soft awareness of the Bangarra Dance Theatre in Victorian circles,” Connelly tells IF.

Nationally, The Dry dropped just 18 per cent in its eighth weekend, ringing up $589,058 for Roadshow. That result saw the Eric Bana-starrer officially cross the $18 million mark; it is now the 14th highest grossing Australian film of all time. Most pundits predict it will finish around $20 million.

Fellow Roadshow title Penguin Bloom also continues to draw a crowd after five weeks in release, bringing in $354,473 to advance to $6.4 million.

Madman’s Chinese mystery comedy Detective Chinatown 3 collected $267,018 in its second frame, taking it to $839,281. In China, the film has already crossed $USD600 million mark.

The Croods: A New Age is yet another title that refuses to leave the top 10, bringing in $250,981 over its ninth weekend; a fall of just 1 per cent. The animated sequel now sits on $20.8 million for Universal, edging close to the 2013 original which made $24.1 million in what was obviously a pre-COVID market.

Stephen Johnson’s High Ground continues to show good word-of-mouth, slipping only 19 per cent with $226,136 in its fourth weekend. To date, it’s made $2.3 million for Madman.

Promising Young Woman got a 17 per cent boost in its seventh weekend, earning $199,605 for Roadshow, as it moves to $3.6 million.

Local comedy Long Story Short, directed by Josh Lawson, stumbled 47 per cent in its second frame to bring in $167,979, advancing to $566,399 for Studiocanal.

Rounding out the top 10 was Wrong Turn, with the reboot of the 2003 film of the same name earning $161,778 in its third orbit for Kismet/Rialto, seeing it cross $1 million.

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