‘The Invisible Man.’

In this unprecedented, fractured year for Australian cinemas, finally enough Aussie films have been released to compile the top 10 titles.

In the chart from the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, the contrast between the pre-COVID-19 releases and those that entered the market after cinemas re-opened, could not be starker.

Arguably the $15.03 million total would have been somewhat higher had Natalie Erika James’ Relic , Unjoo Moon’s I Am Woman and Dean Murphy’s The Very Excellent Mr Dundee not gone straight to Stan or Amazon Prime.

In addition, early digital releases including Ben Lawrence’s Hearts and Bones, Maziar Lahooti’s Below and Kriv Stenders’ Brock: Over the Top deprived audiences of the chance to see them in the optimum way.

The closure of Victorian cinemas, the lack of major new releases and limits on sessions and seating capacity could mean a grim outlook for cinemas, but, longer-term, Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly is optimistic.

“Everyone in this industry is troubled by the repercussions of COVID-19,” Connelly tells IF. “In Melbourne particularly, it is nothing shy of depressing watching other states trade in films we would love to be screening.

“However, in this over-informed age we can forget we are living daily highs and lows in real time – what you decided yesterday could be rendered moot by today’s news.

“This leads me to instead take a long-term view that anticipates a stability that we’ve not enjoyed since February. When audiences feel it’s safe to return to cinemas and the attractive ‘big ticket’ films are there for them to see, they’ll return in strong numbers.

“Studios are still seeking theatrical releases of their key titles, other entertainment options will be in short supply, and those theatrical markets that are trading are seeing positive signs. Plus, by then we’ll all be completely sick of skimming around the home screen of the streamers for 20+ minutes.”

Connelly looks forward to screening Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, which grossed $128,000 after its second weekend in the rest of the country, when his location re-opens. He enjoyed the mix of comedy and drama in Jeremy Sims’ RAMS, which Roadshow is launching on October 15.

And he’s confident about the prospects of Glendyn Ivin’s Penguin Bloom, which Roadshow has dated for January 1 after the world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, and Robert Connolly’s The Dry (April 8).

Kudos to Leigh Whannell, Jason Blum, Goalpost Pictures and Universal Pictures for The Invisible Man, which has screened on both sides of the crisis, raking in $9 million.

Tony Tilse’s Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears earned $3 million in four weeks before cinemas shuttered, released by Roadshow Films, and potentially would have collected rather more.

R&R Films launched John Sheedy’s H is for Happiness in February, making $394,000, way less than had the family film been able to play during school holidays.

Madman Entertainment’s publicity and marketing campaign for Hearts and Bones was well advanced in the lead up to the scheduled April 30 premiere when cinemas were forced to shut down.

“Given Madman had a choice between losing that investment altogether or leveraging it to promote a fast-tracked digital release, I understand their decision,” Connelly says.

“As Madman are generous supporters of Australian features and independent exhibitors, it’s important that Madman is in the best shape possible when we do return to trade.”

View the scorecard here.

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