PJ Hogan’s Mental has posted a less-than-expected opening weekend at the box office, grossing just over $1 million.
The Australian film opened in sixth position after taking $1.09 million across 269 screens for a screen average of $4074 (including previews the film has grossed $1.58 million in total). The film reunited Hogan with Muriel's Wedding star Toni Collette, this time playing foul-mouthed Shaz who joins the fractured Moochmore family who believe their problems stem from mental illness.
Mental is one of the few Australian films distributed by Universal and the distributor’s local boss, Mike Baard, has been a major supporter of the film since script stage.
However, the film’s unique mix of drama and comedy – as well as its MA15+ rating largely due to language – has made it a difficult sell. By contrast, abysmal (yet predictable) Liam Neeson sequel Taken 2 opened in first position at the box office for Fox, grossing an impressive $7.64 million across 246 screens (for an astounding screen average of $31,091).
Mental’s opening weekend box office has outperformed just three other local wide releases over the past year: Bait 3D ($365,187 across 283 screens), Killer Elite ($284,226 across 108 screens) and Any Questions For Ben? ($608,731 across 235 screens).
However, other recent Australian releases this year: The Sapphires, A Few Best Men, Kath & Kimderella (which were all released on 200+ screens) grossed between $1.8-$2.3 million on their opening weekends.
As is often the case with Australian films, positive word-of-mouth now looms as a key test as to whether Mental can make up for its opening weekend underperformance.
While predictable Hollywood box office fodder such as Taken 2 can be expected to drop by 50 per cent in its second weekend, positive word of mouth could stem such a fall for Mental, or as has happened in rare cases, prompt a rise, which occured with previous local hits Red Dog and Kenny.