Thrilled with The Dressmaker’s opening weekend, producer Sue Maslin is confident a US deal for Jocelyn Moorhouse’s dramedy will be signed this week.

UK-based sales agent Embankment Films pre-sold the comedy/mystery/thriller/revenge saga starring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth, Sarah Snook and Hugo Weaving to more than 30 territories including the UK, Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy and China.

But a deal in the US, where CAA reps the film with Embankment, had proved elusive until now. “It’s been very difficult,” Maslin tells IF. “The US distributors know the film plays well after the responses at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival, where it won the audience award. But the refrain we kept hearing from buyers is ‘’How do we sell the film in 15 seconds?’’’

The US deal will entail a significant theatrical release, with a launch likely in the second quarter of 2016.

Universal Pictures executives supplied information on how they orchestrated the marketing campaign in Australia and New Zealand and Maslin has detailed how she devised the social media campaign.

In Oz the film adapted by Moorhouse and P.J. Hogan from the Rosalie Ham novel raked in $3.16 million on 384 screens plus $416,000 from previews and the Adelaide Film Festival screening.

The 4-day figure eclipsed the debuts of The Water Diviner ($2.76 million), Mao’s Last Dancer ($2.75 million), The Sapphires ($2.33 million), Saving Mr Banks ($2.25 million) and Bran Nue Dae ($1.6 million).

Russell Crowe’s drama ended up with $15.8 million and Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer reached $15.4 million. So, given strong word of mouth and no serious competition until Spectre (November 12) and the final edition of Hunger Games (November 19), The Dressmaker could well surpass $15 million.

The first offshore territory is the UK where the film will open on November 20 via Entertainment Film Distributors. Among the buyers in other major markets are eOne in Canada, Ascot Elite in Germany/Switzerland, Eagle Pictures in Italy and Vértice 360º in Spain.

Maslin said, “I’m over the moon with the way Australian audiences have embraced the film so wholly. We always wanted to make a film that was bold and ambitious and entertaining. It’s a commercial film by and about women.”

The producer lavished praise on the Universal Pictures team led by Mike Baard, observing, “They have been right behind the film for four years and they delivered in spades.”

Nationwide B.O. receipts edged up by about 6 per cent last weekend, according to Rentrak’s estimates, as Ridley Scott’s The Martian fell by 28 per cent to second spot, taking $1.6 million in its fifth orbit and advancing to $23.2 million.

Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies dropped by 26 per cent to $1.3 million in its second outing, scoring $3.8 million thus far.

The other openers were unimpressive. The Last Witch Hunter, an action fantasy/thriller which features Vin Diesel as the last man standing between humanity and the most horrifying witches in history, God help us, scared up $1.1 million on 182 screens.

Sleeping with Other People, an anti-romantic comedy starring Jason Sudeikis, Alison Brie and Natasha Lyonne, fetched $60,000 on 35 screens and $72,000 with previews.

Noah Baumbach’s Mistress America, a Manhattan-set comedy starring and co-written by Greta Gerwig, also featuring Lola Kirke and Matthew Spear, drummed up $73,000 on 20 screens with previews.

Peter Andrikidis’ Alex & Eve minted $64,000 in its second weekend on 34 screens, down 27 per cent, raising its total to $224,000.

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