BO Report: ‘Guardians 3’ holds well, ‘Book Club 2’ performs better with Aussies

'Book Club 2: The Next Chapter'.

While older audiences remain difficult to lure back to cinemas, Universal’s Book Club 2: The Next Chapter – squarely aimed at an older female demographic – opened much better in Australia, pro-rata, than it did in the US.

In North America, the reunion of Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen for a girls trip in Italy debuted below projections to just $US6.5 million from 3,507 theatres. Here, it snagged $1.1 million from 353 screens.

The sequel proved the best new performer of the weekend and came in at no. 2 after Disney/Marvel blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

The result is still slightly behind the 2018 original, which bowed to $1.3 million ($1.6 million with previews) and finished at $6.7 million.

Majestic Cinemas was among those who found success with Book Club 2, with CEO Kieren Dell telling IF it performed well regionally where there is an ageing demographic.

“I think one of the reasons we did better here pro-rata than the USA is we tend to do better with romantic comedies and older-skewing comedies generally, but also we came off the back of 80 for Brady, Jesus Revolution etc. here (which released earlier in the US), thus giving trailer opportunities and we promoted a bounceback to Book Club 2 with them. While neither of those movies did huge business, they did enough for us to get some momentum in the older female market,” Dell says.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari is more circumspect, but notes releasing around Mother’s Day was good timing.

“It’s our number one general release film this week and we’re currently the number one performing indie site with more than double the gross of the next best site,” he says.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson thinks Aussie audiences relate more to the setting than those abroad.

“Any films set in spectacular Italy like Under the Tuscan Sun have always enticed the local audience to visit their cinema. More so now when travelling for a European Summer vacation is again commonplace,” he tells IF.

While Guardians may have made almost six times Book Club at the box office last weekend, both were the only two titles to earn more than $1 million. No other new titles cracked $.5 million.

Sony’s Celine Dion rom-com Love Again mustered $487,792 from 289 screens to come in at no. 4 behind The Super Mario Bros. Movie – or $552,966 with previews.

Ben Affleck couldn’t bring some shine from his recent hit Air over to the critically-panned sci-fi thriller Hypnotic, distributed by Roadshow, which mustered just $264,180 from 220 screens.

Forum Distribution had luck with controversial Hindi-language drama The Kerala Story in limited release, bringing in $234,293 from just 35 screens. By screen average, it was the best performer in the top 20 behind Guardians 3; earning $6,694 per screen. The film depicts a group of women from Kerala who are converted to Islam and join the Islamic State. While it has been praised by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it has also been banned in India’s West Bengal state, where the government there said it had the potential to incite violence. It has also been called propaganda and an attempt to destroy religious harmony.

Overall, Numero figures put the top 20 titles down 10 per cent on the previous weekend at $10.9 million.

Disney/Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. remained far and away the number one title, capturing around 60 per cent market share.

Despite the film having mixed reviews, exhibitors canvassed by IF suggest its gathering good word-of-mouth and overcoming “so-called superhero/Marvel fatigue”. That’s reflected in the national figures – it dipped only 31 per cent in its sophomore frame to $6.5 million, advancing to $19.3 million. Globally, it stands at $US528.8 million.

Now six weekends in, The Super Mario Bros. Movie is at $49.5 million for Universal after adding $839,638 across the weekend. The film has now overtaken the lifetime result of 2016’s Finding Dory ($48.6 million) and is close to surpassing 2004’s Shrek 2 to become the highest grossing animation ever released in Australia – that is, if one does not consider Disney’s “live-action” remake of The Lion King in 2019 to be an animation ($64.1 million).

Studiocanal’s John Wick: Chapter 4 rang up $270,496 in its eighth weekend, bringing the film to $24.4 million overall. Warner Bros.’ Air, in its sixth, brought in $211,429, moving to $8.8 million, while stablemate Evil Dead Rise took home $203,519 in its fourth, advancing to $3.3 million.

Rounding out the top 10 was Mind Blowing’s musical drama Jodi, which fell 36 per cent in its second weekend to $186,623, bringing its tally to $624,691 overall.

Of the Aussie titles in release, Bob Brown doco The Giants, distributed by Madman Entertainment, is now at $414,744 after pocketing $33,185 across its fourth weekend.

Rolf de Heer’s The Survival of Kindness, distributed by Umbrella, made $5,096 across 22 screens, moving to $44,399 after two weekends.

The Secret Kingdom, distributed by Pinnacle and on 17 screens, made $3,515 in its third to move to $73,642.

Kismet’s Shackleton: The Greatest Story of Survival is at $312,024 after 10 weekends, and Roadshow’s Of An Age $324,966 after eight.

This weekend’s major release is the latest in the Fast & the Furious franchise, Fast X, with many exhibitors reporting strong pre-sales.

Dell is also enthusiastic about Australian documentary, Sony’s John Farnham: Finding the Voice, directed by Poppy Stockell.

“This weekend is shaping up as a good one with Fast X (which I think will beat expectations) as well as Guardians and Mario continuing. It also has good diversity of content, with the John Farnham doco being particularly well-timed and getting great responses already,” he says.

Also in cinemas this weekend is another Aussie title, Ivan Sen’s Limbo, via Dark Matter Distribution and Bonsai Films. Like The Survival of Kindness, it premiered in competition in Berlinale.