BO report: ‘It’ sequel bites while ‘Angel of Mine’ and ‘The Naked Wanderer’ struggle

‘It Chapter Two.’ (Photo credit: Warner Bros.)

Warner Bros/New Line’s It Chapter Two and Roadshow’s Chinese-American dramedy The Farewell gave the flagging Australian box office a much needed jolt last weekend while two new Oz releases struggled.

Kim Farrant’s psychological thriller Angel of Mine and Alan Lindsay’s romantic comedy The Naked Wanderer faced the same challenge which has bedeviled most Australian films this year: Opening on limited screens with minimal P&A, which means low visibility in the marketplace. So relying primarily on reviews, publicity and word of mouth is no guarantee to draw audiences.

Starring Noomi Rapace, Yvonne Strahovski, Annika Whiteley, Finn Little, Luke Evans, Richard Roxburgh and Rob Collins, Farrant’s follow-up to Strangerland grossed $26,000 on 42 screens and $43,000 including festival screenings for R&R Films.

As IF reported, the movie co-funded by Screen Australia and Film Victoria has been sold by Fortitude International to nearly every major market including Lionsgate in the US. So producers Brian and Josh Etting and Su Armstrong can hope for some upside internationally.

Lindsay’s rom-com, which premiered at CinefestOZ and stars Angus McLaren, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Megan Hajjar and John Cleese, earned $15,000 on 25 screens and $18,000 with previews for Umbrella Entertainment.

Scripted by Callan Durlik and backed by the WA government’s Royalties for Regions program, the film follows McLaren as Jake, who decides to walk 4,000 km up the coast of WA, clad only in a loin cloth. He claims the aim is to raise money for charity but his ulterior motive is to win back his former girlfriend Jasmine (Hajjar) who jilted him. Cleese plays a UK-based media mogul who offers to sponsor the trip to try to counter some bad press he had been getting in the UK.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close observes: “It is becoming extremely difficult to cut through with marketing and publicity for these types of films and entice audiences to see this content at cinemas in the age of streaming services. I see this a major issue for exhibition and our distribution partners moving forward.”

Reaping the dividends of a full-court campaign by Universal and an attractive cast led by Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, Richard E Grant, Jacqueline McKenzie and Claire van der Boom, Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach advanced to $4.1 million after collecting $189,000 in its fifth weekend.

Kriv Stenders’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan mustered $128,000 in its fifth, delivering $2.75 million for Transmission Films.

Daniel Gordon’s Adam Goodes documentary The Australian Dream, which just had a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival, kicked along to $833,000 after making $82,000 in its third for Madman Entertainment, easing by 31 per cent.

Jennifer Kent’s The Nightingale dropped by a moderate 31 per cent in its second, fetching $68,000 on 32 screens and $327,000 including film festivals, private hires and the Q&A tour for Transmission Films.

The top 20 titles rang up $11.7 million last weekend, 13 per cent up on the previous frame, according to Numero.

Directed by Andy Muschietti and based on the second half of Stephen King’s novel, It Chapter Two devoured $5.9 million on 501 screens and $6.4 million including the Wednesday opener, trailing the original which took $7.5 million in its first weekend in 2017 and finished with $23.7 million.

Picking up 27 years after the events of the first film as the adult versions of the Losers Club are confronted by the return of evil dancing clown Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard), the movie launched with $91 million in the US, behind the predecessor’s $123 million opener.

Sony’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood raced along to $310 million worldwide, poised to surpass Inglourious Basterds’ $321 million to rank as Quentin Tarantino’s second highest grossing title behind Django Unchained’s $425 million.

Here, the genre-blending film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie is already the director’s biggest hit with $18.2 million after collaring nearly $1.4 million in its fourth outing.

Disney’s The Lion King ascended to $62.6 million after banking $706,000 in its eighth. The Jon Favreau-directed musical fantasy adventure is the seventh biggest blockbuster of all time globally with $1.6 billion.

One of Gerard Butler’s less memorable vehicles, Roadshow’s Angel Has Fallen cruised to $4.8 million after registered $688,000 in its third.

Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw scored $367,000 in its sixth, advancing to $18.4 million. The action thriller starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham has amassed $719.8 million worldwide, propelled by China’s meteoric $184.6 million in 17 days.

Writer-director Lulu Wang’s Sundance hit The Farewell, which stars Awkwafina as a Chinese-American who returns to Changchun with her family after learning her grandmother is gravely ill, drew $332,000 on 64 screens and $480,000 with festivals and previews.

Cinema Nova general manager Kristian Connelly described The Farewell’s opening at his location as “exceptional” following a focused pre-release campaign and he expects a long season. That film and holdovers including The Australian Dream and The Nightingale made it hard for Angel of Mine to be heard, he added.

Distributed by CMC, Chinese director/co-writer Yu Yang’s fantasy/adventure Ne Zha conjured up $188,000 in its third, raising the total to an impressive $1.8 million.