Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) in 'Halloween Kills'.

With all cinemas in the country now allowed to trade, the national box office was up 67 per cent last weekend, and for the first time in almost three months, two titles earned more than $1 million.

According to Numero, the top 20 films tallied $5.6 million, the highest result since mid-July.

Cinemas in Melbourne could open their doors again at 6pm Friday to 75 per cent capacity, and cinemas in Canberra reopened the same day.

Carlton’s Cinema Nova recordd a respectable restart, with Friday evening front-loaded.

Cinema Nova’s top films were Australian drama Nitram and The Last Duel, the latter of which we ranked first in Victoria despite a wide release. We also saw decent starts for Pig and Lamb, as well as Anthony Bourdain documentary Roadrunner. In all three cases we were the top-ranked venue in the country,” CEO Kristian Connelly tells IF.

“It’s our view that awareness of cinemas being open still hasn’t reached all audiences and that certain cohorts have yet to return in large numbers. This would seem to be backed-up by the more youthful skew of our top performing titles. Additionally, international border closures up until now have kept international students out of the country. When they return in the new year this should boost trade.”

However, while Melburnians embraced being back in cinemas, exhibitors elsewhere around country report a relatively quiet weekend.

For both Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace and regional NSW/Queensland circuit Majestic Pictures, the weekend’s biggest title was a Halloween retrospective of the The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“Overall our Halloween retro programming managed to bring in close to 1,000 additional patrons over the weekend which made all the difference for us,” Orpheum GM Alex Temesvari tells IF.

However, despite the quiet, the mood among operators is positive ahead of upcoming releases like No Time To Die.

Or as programming manager of South Australia’s Wallis Cinemas David Simpson puts it: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell concurs: “We believe we are through the worst of the downturn and the only way now is up!”

Connelly says: “The imminent James Bond release will undoubtedly improve awareness of cinemas being open when it arrives on November 11, by which time we should hope to have a clearer idea of whether we are looking at levels of trade that are comparable to this time last year or, hopefully, vastly higher. Masks no longer being required in cinema when we reach a 90 per cent double vaccinated coverage for ages 12+ will be another plus in bringing audiences back.”

Shang-Chi received a 41 per cent boost thanks to Melbourne audiences, gaining an extra 42 screens and rringing up $1.6 million. The Disney/Marvel film has been no. 1 at the box office for some nine weekends now, tallying $14.9 million.

The latest instalment in the Halloween franchise, Halloween Kills, opened just behind at $1.4 million from 348 screens.

Directed by David Gordon Green, the Universal film continues the saga of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney), picking up where the last film ended – with Strode and her family continuing to fend off Myers, this time with the help of the Haddonfield community.

In the US, where the film has been in release since October 15, it has amassed $US85.6 million ($114.2 million), and $115.1 million ($153.5 million) worldwide.

In third position was Disney’s The Last Duel, holding well in its second frame to earn $697,949, moving to $1.8 million.

Mouse House stablemate Ron’s Gone Wrong bowed in fourth position with $493,698 from 346 screens.

Some exhibitors argue the animated title – about a socially awkward schoolboy who receives a robot named Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis – has suffered from a lack of promotion and proved underwhelming.

Fellow new release, Madman anime My Hero Academia: the Movie World HeroesMission premiered to $226,747 from 143 screens.

Indian Punjabi-language rom-com Honsla Rakh got a boost via Melbourne patrons, with its third frame result of $165,834 up 28 per cent on the previous. The White Hill title sits on $688,055 overall.

Disney horror Antlers, much delayed due to the pandemic, bowed to just $159,136 from 175 screens, another title believed to have suffered due to a lack of promotion.

Paw Patrol: The Movie is holding for Paramount, down just 1 per cent on the previous with takings of $144,784 in its seventh frame, moving to $3.2 million.

Horror Malignant took a tumble, down 49 per cent in its second weekend with $128,552, advancing to $476,963 for Warner Bros.

Rounding out the top 10 was Disney’s Free Guy, which garnered $116,672 in its 12th weekend, moving to $8.6 million.

Among the local titles in release, Madman’s Nitram saw a 24 per cent boost with a fifth weekend result of $48,461 – it sits on $329,559 overall. Pivot Pictures Love You Like That sat outside the top 20 with $16,350 in its second, tallying $62,634.

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