Film Stills, Portraits, BTS, Alice Springs

‘Sweet Country’.

The Academy Awards nominations for I, Tonya – Margot Robbie as lead actress, Alison Janney as supporting actress and editing – paid off in the US drama’s first weekend in Oz.

Meanwhile Warwick Thornton’s Western Sweet Country had a stirring debut after winning numerous prizes and accolades at international festivals and looks set for a long run, buoyed by word-of-mouth.

Oscar contenders Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water surged after the nominations as the top 20 titles racked up $19.8 million, virtually the same as the previous weekend according to Numero.

Directed by Aussie Craig Gillespie, I, Tonya seized the top spot, delivering $2.3 million at 224 cinemas and $2.4 million with previews for Roadshow, boosted by Robbie’s publicity tour.

In the US, distributor Neon expanded the release of the biopic of the troubled American figure skater by 166 screens to 960, ringing up $US3 million. That brings the total to a respectable $18.8 million since the December 8 launch so, pro-rata, the Australian run will outperform the US.

Produced by David Jowsey and Greer Simpkin, Sweet Country, which stars Hamilton Morris, Ewen Leslie, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Matt Day, Thomas M. Wright and Natassia Gorey Furber, rustled up $260,000 on only 42 screens and $372,000 including festival screenings for Transmission Films.

“We’re very happy with this start,” says Transmission’s Andrew Mackie, who plans a gradual expansion, adding 16 screens on February 8, seven the following week, 11 the week after and more beyond that.

“It’s a highly competitive frame and to hold our ground against the Oscar-nominated films is where we wanted to be. With school holiday programming falling away it puts us in a strong position going forward.”

Wallis Cinemas’ Bob Parr was similarly pleased with the opening, particularly in Alice Springs, Thornton’s birth place, and is confident word-of-mouth will drive business over the coming weeks.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle flew to $US822 million worldwide, ranking as Sony’s fifth-highest grosser after overtaking the original Spider-Man. The fantasy reboot directed by Jake Kasdan grabbed $2.2 million in its fifth weekend, off just 19 per cent, lifting the cume to $44.5 million—the third-biggest international market behind China and the UK.

Last weekend’s champ Maze Runner: The Death Cure fell to third spot, declining by 37 per cent to $2.1 million. The sci-fi actioner has pocketed $6.9 million for Fox.

Showing great legs, Aussie director Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman whistled up $2.1 million in its fifth outing for Fox, defying gravity by rising by 3 per cent. The musical drama starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams has banked an impressive $23.7 million and $126.4 million in the US.

Indian director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s medieval epic Padmaavat, which stars Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor, captured a terrific $1.7 million at 65 screens for Paramount, a per-screen average of more than $26,000, which is an all-time record for an Indian film.

Boosted by six Oscar nominations including best pic, lead actress Frances McDormand and supporting actors Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri jumped by 21 per cent, taking $1.1 million in its fourth frame. Writer-director Martin McDonagh’s gritty drama laced with black humour has raked in $6.6 million for Fox.

Director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour drummed up $929,000 in its third weekend, up 1 per cent. The WW2 drama starring Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas has scored $4.1 million for Universal.

Steven Spielberg’s The Post reached $5.2 million after collecting $933,000 in its third outing for eOne, down 18 per cent despite the Oscar nod for Meryl Streep.

Universal’s blockbuster Pitch Perfect 3 advanced to $19.8 million after minting $800,000 in its fourth frame, falling by 41 per cent.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra’s thriller The Commuter dipped by 30 per cent – not a bad hold for the genre – to $775,000 in its second weekend. The Studiocanal release starring Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson has grossed $2.4 million.

The 13 Oscar nominations for Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water and the addition of 19 screens resulted in a 15 per cent lift for the fantasy/drama starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer in its second weekend. Fox’s film conjured up $612,000 at 77 locations, climbing to $1.7 million.

Stephan Elliott’s semi-autobiographical Swinging Safari has earned a mediocre $1.1 million in 11 days at 171 cinemas for the Becker Film Group. The retro-comedy starring Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Julian McMahon, Radha Mitchell and Jeremy Sims fell by 35 per cent to $341,000, which indicates word-of-mouth is mixed, at best.

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