Oz cinemagoers crave light fare

11 November, 2013 by Don Groves

Are Australian audiences getting soft and avoiding darker and more confronting, challenging material?

That’s the theory of one Australian distributor as he surveyed last weekend’s openings of The Counselor, Insidious: Chapter 2, Mr Pip and Fruitvale Station.

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Perhaps giving weight to his theory, Aussie comedy Backyard Ashes had a boisterous opening at just four screens in regional areas.

Ridley Scott’s The Counselor opened with $1.2 million which, pro-rata, is rather better than its lousy $US7.8 million debut in the US. Some critics admired the Cormac McCarthy-scripted thriller about a respected lawyer’s disastrous involvement with a Mexican drug deal, starring Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz.

But maybe audiences were deterred by the reviews which spoke of the sordid setting, dark-hearted individuals behaving badly, bloodshed and leaden dialogue.

James Wan’s haunted house sequel again featuring Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson took $527,000 on 118 locations. That’s OK for the genre, considering the first Insidious had a lifetime gross of $860,000.

Andrew Adamson’s Mr Pip, a fantasy/drama about one young woman’s obsession with Dickens’ Great Expectations and how it helped her to cope with the bloody civil war that racked Bougainville Island in the 1980s, miscued with $55,000 on 29 screens. That’s a surprisingly low figure considering the film, which stars Hugh Laurie as an eccentric English teacher who bonds with the girl, has raked in more than $1 million in New Zealand.

Producer Robin Scholes tells IF that Adamson recut the film after its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, including a new opening that gives more background to the war and is designed to make the story more accessible to a wider audience. She’s hopeful a US deal will soon be negotiated by UTA’s Rena Ronson, who has a number of buyers circling the project.

Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, the harrowing tale of an unarmed, 22-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit cop in 2009, failed to connect, taking $30,000 on 11 screens.

Audiences are clearly preferring the escapist adventures of Thor: The Dark World, which fell by a reasonable 39% to $4.4 million, bringing its 11-day haul to $14 million.

Serious-minded filmgoers are embracing The Butler, the historical drama starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, which eased by just 6% to $798,000 in its second weekend, propelling the total to $2 million.

First-time director Mark Grentell’s Backyard Ashes premiered in Wagga Wagga, where it was shot largely in the backyard of Mark’s mother’s house, Tamworth, Orange and Albury, pocketing $47,000. Cast and crew attended Q&A screenings as part of a grassroots marketing campaign.

The tale of two neighbours who settle their differences with a bizarre game of backyard cricket, it will open this weekend in Leeton and in Griffiths on November 28; distributor Umbrella Entertainment is looking at other regional towns. The ensemble cast includes Felix Williamson, Andrew S. Gilbert, John Wood, Rebecca Massey and Damian Callinan.

Box office takings overall fell by 19% to $11.1 million.

      WEEKEND BOX OFFICE Nov 7-10

 

 

 

Title

 

Week/ Screens

 

Box Office

 

% +-

 

Total

 

1

Thor: The Dark World

2/609

$4,388,723

-39

$14,082,081

2

The Counselor

1/238

1,248,939

NA

1,254,473

3

Captain Phillips

3/336

1,169,589

-20

6,283,098

4

Gravity

6/372

921,334

-13

18,203,164

5

The Butler

2/184

797,566

-6

2,053,219

6

About Time

4/250

701,632

-24

6,893,751

7

Insidious: Chapter 2

1/118

526,929

NA

558,901

8

Prisoners

4/168

273,115

-38

3,508,830

9

Planes

8/111

107,512

+25

7,686,702

10

Grown Ups 2

7/103

103,282

-34

10,919,234

Source: Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia

 

 

 

 

 

 

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