'Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings'. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

With school holidays ending and only a smattering of new releases in the market, the national box office plunged last weekend to the lowest point since mid-August 2020.

According to Numero, total receipts for all films tallied just $2 million. Some $1.8 million of that came from the top 20 titles, a result that is down almost 48 per cent on the previous weekend.

The last time the figures were so low, cinemas were only just emerging from the first wave of lockdowns, ahead of the release of Tenet.

This weekend will hopefully see a pick-me-up, with all cinemas in NSW finally able to open at 75 per cent capacity. This includes the Sydney market, which has been closed since late June. Cinemas in Melbourne, parts of regional Victoria and the ACT remain closed.

A further boost should come again when major releases start to feed back into the market, starting with Malignant and The Last Duel on October 21, and pick up in earnest when early November sees the launch of Eternals, The Many Saints of Newark, and No Time to Die.

Ensuring patrons are fully vaccinated is a new challenge for all exhibitors in NSW. With vaccination rates lower in parts of regional NSW when compared to Sydney, Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell predicts he may temporarily lose business.

“So called Freedom Day is wonderful for those who have been locked down in Sydney and elsewhere, but for us it was a backward step (“Less Freedom Day”?) in regional NSW with vaccine restrictions, which will continue to cause the numbers to fall (as not as high a proportion are fully vaxxed in the regions) until things settle down hopefully by November,” he tells IF.

“We will be much more excited from 1 December when we will be able to welcome all our patrons back again, just as we could do yesterday before the rule change.”

The top title was once again Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which is now on $9.4 million for Disney after collecting $546,430 in its sixth frame.

Despite being in digital release, stablemate Free Guy remains the no. 2, gathering $251,565 in its ninth week to move to $7.8 million.

Rialto’s Ainbo: Amazon Princess is now just outpacing Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Movie, with the former collecting $173,457 ahead of the latter’s $170,070. Both four weeks in, Ainbo is on $1.5 million and Paw Patrol $2.5 million.

Eleven weeks in and Disney’s Jungle Cruise is in the top 5, with receipts of $111,975 moving the title to $4.5 million.

Space Jam: A New Legacy is on $12.6 million for Warner Bros. after 13 weekends, pocketing another $84,787, while stablemate The Suicide Squad has tallied $5.7 million in 10, with its latest takings amounting to $57,235.

Roadshow’s Mark Wahlberg-starrer Joe Bell drew $53,875 in its third frame, moving to $347,594, while Universal’s Respect gathered $51,367 in its eighth weekend, advancing to $1.7 million.

Mindblowing Films’ Chal Mera Putt 3 drew $45,328 in its second frame, moving the film to $328,937.

Just outside the top 10 was local film Nitram, directed by Justin Kurzel, which drew $34,557 for Madman Entertainment in its second to move to $87,944. In limited release, the controversial film about the gunman behind Port Arthur’s 1996 massacre was Australia’s first film to play in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in a decade.

Icon documentary A Fire Inside, directed by Justin Krook and Luke Mazzaferro and following the devastation of Australia’s 2019/2020 ‘Black Summer’ bushfires, opened on $21,668 from 77 screens.

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