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.

Contact this reporter at [email protected] or on Twitter at @bcswift.

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  1. Fully confident this will take off. I think after K&K audiences were a bit skeptical and probably waiting until they hear how this is before going to see it. I bet that next weekend will see a bump in BO. No stress.

  2. I saw Mental on the Sunday afternoon – the cinema was over half full and the audience laughed more than in any other film I’ve seen recently. I am confident word of mouth will be good.

    Headlines like these reveal a slant on the negative side of things:
    Bait 3D bombs at the box office, Kidman, Davis miss out at Emmys
    Bait 3D continues to struggle at local box office

    Our poor performance at the box office is a result of lack of faith in the films our industry produces, and the mainstream and trade press bear some responsibility for this situation.

    If only this kind of story could be handled in a slightly more sensitive manner. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the industry feels this way.

  3. I’m seeing Taken 2 tonight.
    Sure, it’s going to be predictable, but it’s also going to be ‘Entertaining’.
    Sad, but true.
    I would love to support my Aussie cinema but some of the films we produce are just terrible.

  4. Releasing an MA15+ movie during school holidays when older audiences are preoccupied or off seeing Taken 2 mightn’t have been the best decision, but there was a time when an Aussie film couldn’t even dream of a $1mil+ opening. And coming so soon after K&K, too.

    How about LORE?

  5. Was there really a need for the disparaging remark about Taken 2? I’m not planning on seeing it but is it really that difficult to work out (and accept) the fact that it’s obviously doing something right to attract an audience into the cinema. Something a good majority of Australian movies fail at because Australian movies don’t seem to be thinking about entertaining audiences at all.

    As a side note, I’ve been seeing the posters for Mental around Sydney and they look like Ikea ads, with nothing engaging about it and no star quality to attract audiences… is it any wonder why no one is bothered to see it. When will Australian filmmakers understand that you need to engage your audience.

  6. Funnily enough, I didn’t want to see “Mental” because the cringe worthy trailer I saw was so terrible and didn’t reveal anything substantial about the story. However, after I read the article in the most recent IF about “Mental”, I found the story to be quite interesting and now I do want to see the film. So maybe it’s a good film that just got an awful marketing campaign behind it. The posters and trailer revealed none of the interesting story elements that were mentioned in Brendan’s article.

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