While the school holidays are giving ticket sales a modest uplift, the crisis for Australian cinemas shows no signs of abating, at least until Boxing Day.

The decision by MGM, Universal and James Bond producers Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to shift the global release of No Time to Die from November to April 2021 is the latest blow to product-starved exhibitors.

The fourth quarter schedule looks threadbare after Disney decided to premiere Pixar’s Soul on Disney+ on December 25 and moved Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile to January 7 and Marvel’s Black Widow to April. Meanwhile Warner Bros. booted Denis Villeneuve’s Dune reboot to October 2021.

“The current situation seems absolutely catastrophic for exhibitors right now,” says Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari, whose top title last weekend was David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet.

“While it’s easy to understand on a case by case basis why major tentpoles would be getting pushed to next year, the brutal reality is that there will be far fewer cinemas left standing worldwide to show this product when it finally releases.

“JobKeeper cutbacks and the ongoing fixed costs associated with operating cinemas makes it extremely challenging, if not near impossible, when there is no major new content on the horizon.

“The current release schedule until Boxing Day is simply not going to cut it if we are expected to survive into the new year.”

Cinemas in NSW are now allowed to increase seating capacities to 50 per cent but exhibitors say that makes no difference when there is so little fresh product.

Independent Cinemas Australia president Scott Seddon describes delaying the Cary Joji Fukunaga-directed Bond film as a significant issue in the recovery of the Australian industry.

Seddon regards Warner Bros’ decision to release Chris Nolan’s Tenet territory-by-territory as a reasonable result and urges the other Hollywood studios to follow Warner’s lead, observing: “Picking one release date for the whole planet is not going to be practical for at least another year or so.”

Wallis Cinema’s senior advisor Bob Parr says: “It is a disaster with a sparsity of big films this side of Christmas. I am sure some sites will close until December.”

On a brighter note, Hoyts CEO Damian Keogh says: “It will be fairly lean in terms of releases until mid-December. Despite the fact Melbourne is closed, cinema admissions have been steadily climbing in other states – even with the lack of new release product.

“The issue is that the virus numbers in the US and Europe are making studios reluctant to release new movies. At this stage our best hope is that the big Boxing Day titles do not move.”

The Boxing Day line-up is headed by WB’s Patty Jenkins-directed Wonder Woman 1984, Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods: A New Age and Sony Pictures’ Peter Rabbit 2.

Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard sees one positive in postponing multiple films to next year, opining, “That will strengthen 2021 with so many major blockbusters now scheduled to release.”

Temesvari called on distributors to schedule Australian films in November/December to capitalise on the lack of Hollywood titles and to do more re-issues like the Star Wars franchise.

Numero reported the top 20 titles generated $4.1 million from Thursday-Sunday, up 13 per cent on the previous frame, and $5.1 million including the Monday Labour Day holiday.

Roadshow’s horror/thriller Antebellum, a Premium VOD release in the US, had a mediocre debut while Chinese CGI-animated fantasy-adventure Jiang Ziya: Legend Of Deification launched impressively.

Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s comedy Trolls World Tour was No 1 again, drawing $1.3 million in its third outing including Monday, lifting the total to $5.1 million.

‘Jiang Ziya: Legend Of Deification.’

WB’s Tenet ascended to $10.8 million after scoring $654,000 in its sixth. In US dollars the spy thriller has collected a sub-par $45.1 million in the US but a creditable $306.7 million globally.

China leads the way with $65.5 million followed by the UK’s $20.9 million, France’s $20.5 million, Germany’s $16.1 million and Japan’s $15.9 million.

Studiocanal’s The Secret Garden, the fourth adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, advanced to $1.8 million after earning $556,000 in its third.

Janelle Monáe plays the dual roles of Eden, an abused slave on a pre-Civil War era plantation, and Veronica, a renowned and whip-smart academic and author in the current day, in Antebellum.

Co-starring Eric Lange, Jena Malone, Jack Huston, Kiersey Clemons, Gabourey Sidibe and Marque Richardson, the movie from first-time writers/directors Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz collected $437,000 on 175 screens.

Released straight to digital in the US, WB’s Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! has fetched $832,000 after bagging $303,000 in its second.

China Lion Film’s Jiang Ziya: Legend Of Deification rang up $267,000 on just 36 screens, a healthy PSA of $7,411. Directed by Teng Cheng and Wei Li, the plot follows a celestial army commander who must vanquish a demon threatening the existence of the mortal realm.

After learning the creature’s fate is tied to that of a young girl, Jiang disobeys heaven’s edict and spares the demon, resulting in his banishment. Ten years later, he is given one more chance to complete the task. In its home market the film has racked up $US130.4 million in four days.

Roadshow’s After We Collided wooed $241,000 in its fourth, so the Roger Kumble-directed romantic drama has banked $2.7 million, eclipsing the original’s $2.16 lifetime total.

Paramount’s Paw Patrol: Jet to the Rescue has $1.2 million after adding $223,000 in its fourth while Madman Entertainment’s Astro Kid nabbed $164,000 in its third and $437,000 thus far.

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