Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway and Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian in 20th Century Studios’ 'Death on the Nile', directed by Kenneth Branagh. (Photo: Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.)

Kenneth Branagh’s Death On The Nile seems to have tempted at least some older moviegoers – those who have so far been the most reticent to return to cinemas – out of their homes.

A COVID-delayed follow up to 2017’s Murder on the Orient of Express, the film opened on top of the box office with $1.6 million from 395 screens, or $1.8 million with previews. However, it is still lags behind the (arguably starrier) original, which bowed to $3.9 million.

Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, the Disney/Fox mystery was budgeted at $US90 million and stars Branagh, Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Bening, Russell Brand and Letitia Wright. In the US, the film also opened at no. 1 with a result of $US12.8 million; pro-rata the Australian result is slightly ahead.

For some exhibitors like Alex Temesvari, GM of Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace it was a Branagh weekend, with his cinema also seeing the director’s Belfast get a boost due to last Wednesday’s Oscar nominations.

Death on the Nile performed well, particularly given that a big chunk of the target market is the older crowd who have been far more resistant to return, and it was neck and neck with Belfast which is also vying for the same crowd,” he tells IF.

‘Marry Me’.

Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson’s romantic comedy Marry Me opened in third position behind Jackass Forever to a decent $1.2 million – suggesting those after a love story ahead of Valentine’s Day weren’t deterred by its somewhat ludicrous premise.

Pro-rata, the Australian result is again ahead of the US, where it opened to $US8 million and was released day-and-date there by Universal on streaming service Peacock.

While both Death on the Nile and Marry Me opened reasonably, their results would have been nothing much to sniff at in pre-pandemic times.

As Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF: “Death on the Nile and Marry Me opened within our forecasted range, but unfortunately they both continued the current trend of under-performance.”

Similarly, Majestic Cinemas Kieren Dell tells IF both were softer than hoped, indicating again that the older market is slow to return. “This is especially noticeable as Jackass held up well in week two. We are hoping both will have long legs as a result, as they have plenty of opportunity to shine the rest of February.”

Rialto’s Blacklight opened in sixth position, with audiences seemingly undeterred by the film’s 6 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Liam Neeson-starrer, which shot in Melbourne, bowed to $327,099 from 203 screens.

‘Drive My Car’.

While the announcement of the Academy Award nominations typically sees a boost for titles in contention, this year exhibitors reported a mixed bag.

For many, the impact of the Oscars was negligible, bar Belfast and Drive My Car. However, punters at Melbourne’s Cinema Nova embraced the nominated films with enthusiasm.

CEO Kristian Connelly tells IF Belfast took the top slot at his venue with a 28 per cent uptick, with Drive My Car the second most popular title – weekend matinees and evening sessions proving the most popular given the film’s three hour running time.

Worst Person In The World and Dune both enjoyed double-digit improvements. West Side Story and Parallel Mothers both held, while Power Of The Dog experienced a massive renewal in interest thanks to additional sessions programmed in anticipation of its many nominations,” he says.

“An advance screening of Flee, nominated across three major categories [Documentary, International Feature Film, Animated Feature], pre-empted a successful release this coming Thursday.”

Potential’s gambit to release Drive My Car after the nominations announcement likely worked in its favour. The Japanese film is up for four Oscars: Best Picture, International Feature Film and Adapted Screenplay and Directing awards for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. The three hour film bowed to $68,912 nationally from 34 screens, an average of $2,027. With previews, it has grossed $112,418.

Belfast – only in its second frame – held extremely well, dropping only 18 per cent with $496,527 to move to $1.6 million. At $5,456 per screen, it has the best average of any title in the top 20.

For the other Best Picture nominees already in release, Universal’s Licorice Pizza was the only title to see improvement, up 19 per cent on the previous with $48,562 (lifetime gross $865,240 after eight weekends).

International Feature Film nominee The Worst Person In the World, from Joachim Trier, was up a staggering 192 per cent on the previous, collecting $28,966 from just eight screens (lifetime gross $349,313, also after eight weekends).

Notably, box office figures for the Oscar frontrunner – Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog – are not being publicly reported due to the fact it is a Netflix film.

Overall, the top 20 titles harvested $7.7 million, down 7 per cent on the previous, according to Numero.

Universal’s Jackass Forever amassed $1.4 million in its sophomore weekend, a decent hold of 41 per cent, moving the film to $4.5 million.

Meanwhile Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home is edging ever closer to a web of $80 million, with another $701,869 gathered in its ninth frame.

Now in its eighth week, Sing 2 is on $18.7 million for Universal after ringing up $309,092, while its Oscar-snubbed stablemate, House of Gucci is on $9 million after $276,990.

Roadshow’s Moonfall crashed 66 per cent in its sophomore frame with $255,853, a result which sees it now total $1.2 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was Scream 5, which harvested $207,864 in its fifth frame to move to $6.3 million.

This weekend brings some promise in the form of action-adverture Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg.

“The UK opening was very encouraging and pre-sales are looking strong,” Chard says.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.