Despite being critically panned, Universal comedy The War With Grandpa has posted the highest opening weekend since After We Collided.
Exhibitors had been expecting some success with the film, which stars Robert de Niro, Uma Thurman and Christopher Walken, given it did reasonably – COVID considered – in New Zealand, totalling around $NZD1.3 million.
Here, it bowed on $926,114 from 318 screens, completely outstripping all competition.
Directed by Tim Hill, the film follows Peter and his grandpa (De Niro), who used to be close. But when Grandpa Jack moves in with the family, Peter is forced to give up his bedroom – and will stop at nothing to get it back.
For Majestic Cinemas, it was the top title by far, with CEO Kieren Dell telling IF: “It seems to have a broad reach, and we all need a good comedy just now.”
Despite The War With Grandpa‘s relative success, overall the box office seems to have flatlined, as exhibitors and audiences alike wait out for end of year titles Wonder Woman 1984, The Croods: New Age and local film The Dry, from director Robert Connolly.
However there are some positive signs, with several operators reporting encouraging numbers from previews for The Witches, which opens this Thursday. And from today, Victorian cinemas can also increase their capacity, opening up to 75 per cent of all seats.
Overall, the top 20 titles for the weekend totalled $3.3 million, down 3 per cent on last week, according to Numero.
The only other new release of note from the weekend was Universal’s The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, which bowed on $109,703 from 167 screens.
Rialto’s A Christmas Gift from Bob disappointed, opening on a dismal $47,346 from 191.
For Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, the Bee Gees doc was the top title. Throughout the pandemic, GM Alex Temesvari has made a focus on special event programming, and premiered the film complete with a Bee Gees tribute group playing before the show.
It sold out the auditorium and Temesvari reports it “truly made the film an event.”
Cinema Nova has found joy with Monster Fest, with multiple sold out sessions.
“Despite a brief promotional period and a truncated festival, the event will be a genuine success for both Cinema Nova and Monster Pictures,” CEO Kristian Connelly tells IF.
The future of the theatrical experience has been a keen discussion point over the past week given WarnerMedia’s announcement it will release WB’s entire 2021 slate day-and-date with HBO Max in the US.
The news doesn’t impact international markets, but naturally cinema owners here are watching with interest.
Wallis Cinemas’ Bob Parr sees it as a worrying trend, but is confident WB will revert to the old business plan when COVID “is a bad memory”.
For Temesvari, it’s a sensible thing for a studio to do during a pandemic.
“I’m all for the Warner/HBO hybrid screening model provided that it’s an interim measure while the US market recovers, and provided that films still get a proper and exclusive theatrical roll out internationally,” he says.
“I genuinely think it’s a best of both worlds approach and is certainly better than continually pushing films back and making the international market suffer unnecessarily. This model would finally be an example of truly treating theatrical exhibition as a global business and not U.S. centric as is usually the case.”
Connelly notes that as of next year, WB’s titles will be released in Australia via Universal Pictures, a distributor he says “has continually signalled its commitment to the Australian exhibition landscape.”
“I also acknowledge that the point of the HBO Max decision is to keep subscription fees to the streaming service ‘inside’ the WB machine, so in the absence of a service locally that is owned by WB, I don’t see how the plan announced in the USA could be applied here to the same level of success. It would be merely splitting the difference with a local streaming outlet,” he says.
“That said, if there is a mantra for 2020 it is ‘expect the unexpected’, so I am keeping an open mind.”
Dell has some concerns for piracy, but argues any longer-term implications are harder to predict. While he hopes to see a “reasonable” window return at some point, he is a believer that cinema will adapt, come what may.
“The rumours of its death have been heard many times before and are, as usual, over-exaggerated. Cinema exhibition will need to work closely with distribution and all parts of the ecosystem to ensure a prosperous future as the pandemic recedes in what is clearly a new world.”
Now some 15 weeks in release, WB’s Tenet remains the no. 2 title in Australia thanks to pent up demand from Victorians, earning $426,936 to advance to $14.9 million.
Last week’s top title, Sony’s queer Xmas rom-com Happiest Season, collected $419,939 in its second frame, taking it to $1.2 million.
Also in its second, Kevin Costner and Diane Lane-starrer Let Him Go tumbled 40 per cent to earn $201,750. Overall the Universal title now sits on $656,535, a softer result than many expected.
Roadshow’s Rams rang up $150,191 over its sixth weekend, seeing the Jeremy Sims comedy drama cross the $4 million mark. The film is the second highest grossing local title of the year; one wonders what if could have done in a pre-COVID environment.
Now over 12 weeks in release, Universal’s Trolls World Tour notched another $144,842, taking its cume to $8.6 million.
Stablemate Freaky, a body swap horror from Blumhouse, now sits on $1.7 million after earning $142,886 in its fifth frame.
Rialto’s Liam Neeson-actioner Honest Thief garnered $128,568 to now total $3.3 million after seven weeks.
Keira Knightley-starrer Misbehaviour advanced to $526,525 for Studiocanal, after collecting $124,989 over its second weekend, a fall of 45 per cent.