(From L-R): Elisabeth Moss, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Fisher Stevens and Griffin Dunne in the film 'The French Dispatch'. (Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved)

One of the slowest groups to return to the cinema worldwide amid the pandemic has been the typically older-skewing audience for specialty and arthouse films.

Yet in North America, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch has proved to be a breakout in recent months, opening with a $US25,000 theatre average and making $US15.5 million in eight weeks. Worldwide, the film, which opened in Cannes, has made $US38.8 million.

Here, it opened fifth at the box office last weekend for Disney to a decent $466,007 from 165 screens – an average of $2,824. With previews, it stands at $674,633.

A love letter to the journalism of magazines like The New Yorker, The French Dispatch stars a host of Anderson regulars, including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Edward Norton, as well as other A-listers like Timothee Chalamet, Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand and Elisabeth Moss.

While it is a respectable opening for a title like this in the pandemic era, the film won’t reach near the heights of past Anderson work like 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which opened on $2.6 million and finished on $12 million, or even perhaps 2018’s Isle of Dogs, which started at $839,000 and finished at $3.1 million.

Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace had the most success nationally with The French Dispatch in previews, selling out all 700 seats. However, general manager Alex Temsvari tells IF the cinema felt it “definitely burnt off some demand” into the opening weekend.

According to Numero, the top 20 titles at the box office last weekend gathered $8.8 million, 30 per cent down on the previous.

‘Dune’.

Leading the pack once again was another Chalamet-starrer, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, which garnered $2.8 million in its second frame – a 43 per cent drop. That brings its cume to $9.2 million for Warner Bros.

Three weekends in, Venom: Let There Be Carnage is on $13.1 million after collecting another $1.4 million for Sony, while Universal’s No Time To Die is edging towards $32 million after collecting $1.4 million. Some exhibitors are still reporting sell out sessions for the latter.

Disney’s Encanto is proving to have legs, dropping only 9 per cent in its second weekend with a result of $1.1 million moving the the film to $2.9 million.

“This sets it up nicely for a continued run through December and into the January school holidays,” Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.

The Boss Baby: Family Business also held well into its second weekend, falling only 22 per cent with a result of $403,478, adding to a tally of $2.9 million for Universal.

The poorly-reviewed Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, starring Kaya Scodelario, bowed to just $266,505 for Sony from 184 screens, while the weekend’s other major new release, Universal’s Dear Evan Hansen didn’t resonate much either, collecting only $221,383 from 206 screens.

In the lead up to the holidays, Studiocanal’s A Boy Called Christmas seems to have found its audience, dropping just 1 per cent in its third frame with $171,381, advancing to $1.1 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was Disney/Marvel Eternals, which is on $14.8 million after collecting $153,009 in its sixth frame.

As for this weekend, all eyes are on Sony’s Spider-Man: No Way Home.

“Pre-sales are currently going through the roof, tracking behind only Avengers: Endgame in our all-time pre-sales list,” Chard says.

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