BO Report: Elisabeth Moss thriller ‘Shirley’ enters a scary world

Elisabeth Moss and Odessa Young in ‘Shirley.’

After The Invisible Man racked up more than $US125 million at cinemas worldwide – the bulk of it before the pandemic struck – Elisabeth Moss’ latest thriller Shirley had to face the realities of the pandemic-blighted cinema landscape.

Madman Entertainment launched the Josephine Decker-directed movie, which won the US Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking at Sundance, on just 25 screens last weekend.

While the 4-day gross was a modest $30,000, that should be viewed in the context of a depressed theatrical market in which only 240 cinemas are operating and most tickets are half price.

The shutdown of Melbourne’s cinemas alone has robbed the market of 26 per cent of its normal takings. Commenting on the closure, Palace Cinemas CEO Benjamin Zeccola said last week: “A painful blow has been dealt to Melbournians, particularly people in entertainment, who are injured more than most.

“However, we will overcome this challenge. Nothing will prevent us from answering our calling, to share our love of film and the finer things that provide an indulgent escape at the cinema.”

Wallis Cinema’s programming manager David Simpson rated Shirley as just as good as The Invisible Man but he had low expectations given the state of business.

In the US, Neon launched Shirley on VOD and digital in June. Set in the 1960s, the psycho-drama follows Aussie Odessa Young and Logan Lerman as Rose and Fred, a couple who move to a small Vermont college town in pursuit of a job for Fred as an assistant professor of literature.

Professor Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) offers them free room and board as long as Rose agrees to clean the home and look after his wife, horror author Shirley Jackson (Moss).

In Australia, the weekend BO amounted to $2.5 million, virtually level with the prior frame, according to Numero. Roadshow’s The Personal History of David Copperfield collected $258,000 in its second frame on 175 screens, off by a mere 22 per cent, ascending to $827,000.

The re-imagination of the Charles Dickens novel, which stars Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw, was the top title at the newly reopened Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace.

“It was a very successful relaunch,” general manager Alex Temesvari tells IF. “We actually traded as the #1 location in the entire country, which is a testament to our unique programming and the moviegoing community’s deep love for The Orpheum.

“The main attraction was our classic film programming. We have around 80 special event screenings booked through to early August and patrons are really responding to what we internally are referring to as ‘comfort food cinema.’

“Considering the less than ideal circumstances and restrictions we have reopened under, we’re extremely heartened by the results and very appreciative of the bulk of customers doing the right thing when it comes to working with our team on adhering to physical distancing and other safety guidelines we’ve worked hard to put in place.”


Rialto’s South Korean animated fantasy Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs drew $240,000 in its second, advancing to $581,000.

Universal’s The Invisible Man fetched $159,000 on 149 screens, 20 weeks after it premiered. Leigh Whannell’s supernatural thriller has amassed $8.8 million.

Among the newcomers, Palace’s A White, White Day, a drama set in a remote Icelandic town, which follows an off-duty police chief who begins to suspect a local man had an affair with his late wife, rang up $54,000 on 14 screens. Including festivals and advance screenings, the movie directed by Hlynur Palmason has scored a respectable $198,000.

Universal launched Waves, Trey Edward Shults’ family drama which stars Kelvin Harrison Jr. in the tale of an emotional journey of a suburban African American in south Florida, on 16 screens, making a modest $18,000. “It’s a shame as it’s a truly wonderful film,” Temesvari says.

Rialto’s horror movie The Wretched, written and directed by Deadheads’ Brett and Drew Pierce, took an anemic $10,000 on 23 screens and $43,000 with previews and festivals.

IFC Films opened the movie, which follows a teenage boy’s struggles with a thousand year-old witch who lives beneath the skin of the woman next door, in May, ending up with $1.7 million.