Bloodshot (Vin Diesel) and Dalton (Sam Heughan) in Columbia Pictures' BLOODSHOT.g

‘Bloodshot.’ (Photo credit: Columbia Pictures)

Ticket sales at Australian cinemas plunged to a new low last weekend as coronavirus-wary audiences ignored almost all the new releases.

The top 20 titles generated a mere $6.79 million, 25 per cent down on the previous frame, which had been the worst weekend of the year, according to Numero.

This morning exhibitors and distributors were struggling to recall the last time the weekend grosses fell to such a nadir.

Typifying the market’s malaise, only Sony Pictures’ Bloodshot and Universal’s The Invisible Man in week three cracked $1 million.

In the US, where some cinemas have closed, the estimated weekend take of $US55.3 million was the lowest since 1998.

The government’s ban on gatherings of more than 500 people has not impacted cinemas, at least for now.

Hoyts Cinemas CEO Damian Keogh tells IF: “We have no immediate plans to close cinemas but will be guided by government policy. However we are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of customers and staff with seating maps, cleaning etc.”

Keogh laments the decisions by the US studios to postpone the launches of Mulan, Fast & Furious 9, A Quiet Place II, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and No Time to Die but says other releases are performing close to his projections.

“Our local industry will be impacted by how the virus plays out here and overseas,” he says. “It’s going to be a challenging 2020 but cinema is resilient and will bounce back strongly once things get back to normal.”

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace general manager Alex Temesvari says: “These are truly dark times for the cinema industry and completely out of our control.

“Business for the holdovers has for the most part dried up and with no major new releases on the way for quite some time, things likely won’t improve until distributor and audience confidence returns.

“The 500 ban shouldn’t affect us too much provided it applies per screen and not per venue. More clarification is needed from the government on that point and a time-frame also needs to be provided.”

An Event Cinemas spokesperson said none of its screens has a capacity of more than 500, adding: “At this stage we are not closing any screens and are operating as normal.”

Based on the comic book from Valiant Comics and directed by David S. F. Wilson, Bloodshot stars Vin Diesel as Ray Garrison, a soldier who was recently killed in action and brought back to life as the superhero Bloodshot by an evil nanotechnology corporation.

With the corporation controlling his body, mind and memories, Ray doesn’t know what’s real and what’s not so he embarks on a a mission to find out. Guy Pearce plays a villainous scientist. The sci-fi/action-drama raked in a mediocre $1.4 million on 346 screens here and $9.3 million in the US.

Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man collected $1.08 million, hoisting the total to an impressive $7.2 million.

The psychological thriller starring Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer and Michael Dorman has pocketed $64.4 million in the US and $122.7 million globally.

Paramount’s over-achiever Sonic the Hedgehog ascended to $11.8 million after scoring $668,000 in its fifth outing. The feature debut of director Jeff Fowler, the adventure comedy has clocked $145.8 million in the US and $160.7 million in the rest of the world.

One of the few bright spots was Mind Blowing Films’ Chal Mera Putt 2, a Punjabi-language comedy-drama about a group of immigrants struggling to make ends meet in the UK, the sequel to last year’s hit. Directed by Janjot Singh and starring Amrinder Gill, Garry Sandhu, Simi Chahal, Iftikhar Thakur, Nasir Chinyoti and Akram Udas, the film fetched $392,000 on 62 screens, a healthy per screen average of more than $6,300.

‘Military Wives.’

Transmission launched Military Wives, Peter Cattaneo’s dramedy inspired by the true story of the first choir in England founded by women at an Army base while their partners were fighting in Afghanistan.

An entertaining and moving film with top notch performances from Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan and Jason Flemyng, it deserved to make a lot more than $404,000 on 256 screens and $765,000 with advance screenings.

Madman Entertainment’s alternate content release My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising, the second film based on Kōhei Horikoshi’s manga, directed by Kenji Nagasaki, drew anime fans, bagging $359,000 on 96 screens and $378,000 with previews.

Roadshow’s Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears added $245,000 in its third chapter, bringing the total to almost $2.9 million.

Directed by the Erwin brothers, Studiocanal’s faith-based drama I Still Believe, the saga of Christian music star Jeremy Camp (K.J. Apa) and his first wife, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer shortly before they married, tanked, taking $207,000 on 121 screens and $215,000 with previews.

The Walt Disney Co./20th Century Studios’ dud The Call of the Wild fetched $162,000 in its fourth, delivering $2.4 million.

Another alternate content release, Aaron Lieber’s Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable, the story of the surfer who lost her left arm when she was attacked by a tiger shark when she was 13, and more than a decade later chases the biggest wave of her career, rang up $158,000 on limited sessions on 48 screens for Garage Entertainment.

Universal’s Queen & Slim, a Bonnie and Clyde-esque crime drama starring Get Out‘s Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith, directed by Melina Matsoukas, was another casualty of the weekend downturn, taking $48,000 on 48 screens.

Summing up the weekend, Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell says: “The box office was soft but actually at some of our sites not the softest we’ve seen. The product was always going to lead to a low BO but the older patrons definitely didn’t come out in their usual numbers which exacerbated it, meaning younger-skewing movies like The Invisible Man and Bloodshot were at the top at most sites.”

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