Oz audiences spark to Saving Mr Banks, The Book Thief

13 January, 2014 by Don Groves

The Australian creative elements involved in Saving Mr Banks and The Book Thief no doubt contributed to impressive openings for both films last weekend.

Essential Media and Entertainment’s Ian Collie, who co-produced Mr Banks with the UK’s Alison Owen, gave copious interviews to launch the drama starring Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers, the Australian-born author of Mary Poppins.


Geoffrey Rush worked the publicity circuit for The Book Thief, screenwriter Michael Petroni’s adaptation of Aussie author Marcus Zusak’s novel set in Germany in WWII.

The feature directing debut of Brian Percival (Downton Abbey), The Book Thief fetched $2.4 million on 241 screens, and $2.61 million with previews. The plot follows a young girl (Sophie Nélisse) who seeks refuge in the world of books while her foster parents (Rush and Emily Watson) hide a young Jewish man (Ben Schnetzer) in the basement of their German home. The film has earned a respectable $US19.7 million in the US.

Financed by the Disney studio and directed by The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr Banks rang up $2.25 million on 272 screens, and $2.4 million with previews, adding to its hefty US haul of nearly $US69 million through its fifth weekend.

The kerfuffle over Meryl Streep labelling Walt Disney as sexist and anti-Semitic when she presented the best actress prize to Thompson at the National Board of Review awards in New York last week evidently did not deter Oz cinemagoers and indeed may have sparked more curiosity in the subject.


Jonathan Teplitzky’s The Railway Man advanced to $4.2 million after making $574,000 in its third weekend. In a sign of confidence, distributor Transmission Films is adding 27 screens over the next few weeks.

In Australia, takings overall fell by 22% to $19.35 million last weekend. The largesse was spread evenly with seven films each posting more than $1 million.

 Disney’s Frozen claimed top spot, pocketing $3.1 million in its third frame, propelling the cumulative total to $22.7 million.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug collected $2.95 million in its third chapter, reaching $31.5 million, although tumbling by 52%.

Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty hit $10.9 million after scoring $1.46 million in its third adventure.

Free Birds, an animated comedy about two turkeys (voiced by Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson) from opposite sides of the tracks who travel back in time to try to get turkeys off Thanksgiving menus, launched with a fair $1.1 million.

Stephen Frears’ Philomena moved up to $5.85 million after raking in $834,000 in its third frame, down 37%.

The wealth of upscale dramas is proving tough competition for August: Osage County, which plunged by 53% to $681,000 in its second session, banking $3.2 million thus far.


Title  Week/ Screens  Box Office % +-  Total

1 Frozen 3/460 $3,130,836 -35 $22,698,380
2 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 3/575  2,959,024 -52 31,483,305
3 The Book Thief 1/241 2,427,988 NA 2,615,843
4 Saving Mr Banks 1/272 2,257,869 NA 2,411,072
5 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 3/266 1,462,313 -46 10,982,250
6 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 4/238 1,120,007 -51 16,143,837
7 Free Birds 1/277 1,094,800 NA 1,251,238
8 Philomena 3/126 834,425 -37 5,849,399
9 Walking with Dinosaurs 3D 3/358 819,239 -46 3,908,614
10 August: Osage County 2/219 681,408 -53 3,238,090

Source: Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia