‘Ladies in Black.’

Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black opened impressively in Australian cinemas last weekend, considering that the primary target audience – mature cinemagoers – don’t normally rush out to see films in the first weekend.

Benefiting from glowing reviews and copious publicity, the 1959-set comedy-drama starring Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Corr, Alison McGirr, Noni Hazlehurst and Vincent Perez, looks set for a long run.

Perhaps surprisingly, the Sony release did not open at No. 1. That honour went to Universal’s spy comedy Johnny English Strikes Again, seven years after the release of Johnny English Reborn.

Dark comedy/fantasy The House with a Clock in Its Walls opened in top spot in the US but under-performed here while Warner Bros’ animated adventure Smallfoot began reasonably well, positioned to cash in on the school vacation.

Madman Entertainment launched Ben Lawrence’s feature documentary Ghosthunter, which won the $10,000 Documentary Australia Foundation Award for best Australian docu at this year’s Sydney Film Festival, on three screens, generating just $1,900 and $17,000 with previews and the festival screening.

The Backlot Films released I Am Paul Walker, Adrian Buitenhuis’ doc on The Fast and the Furious star who died in a car crash five years ago, on limited sessions on 70 screens, taking a dismal $27,000.

Despite the influx of new titles, the top 20 titles collected $13.6 million, a fraction lower than the previous weekend, according to Numero.

Directed by David Kerr and starring Rowan Atkinson, Ben Miller, Olga Kurylenko, Emma Thompson and Jake Lacy, Johnny English Strikes Again bagged $2.7 million on 365 screens. That’s better than the previous edition which collared $2.53 million in its first weekend and finished with $12.7 million.

Produced by Allanah Zitserman and Sue Milliken, Ladies in Black fetched $1.86 million and $2.24 million, including previews, on 328 screens for Sony, which acquired worldwide rights to the $12 million production. Exhibitors were delighted. Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close said: “This beautiful and well-crafted film has resonated strongly with audiences on its opening weekend. I anticipate strong WOM will easily propel it to $10 million-plus.”

The film’s Sunday business at Cinema Nova up 10 per cent on the Saturday, with audiences often applauding at the end. The cinema’s general manager Kristian Connelly says he expects a very long and successful season at the Nova and nationally.

Paul Feig’s comedic thriller A Simple Favour rang up $1.5 million in its second weekend, a moderate 29 per cent decline, banking $5 million for Roadshow. Pro-rata, that’s better than the US where the film starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding has pocketed $32.5 million in 10 days.

Showing remarkable stamina, Jon M Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians vaulted to $19.2 million, the best result so far among international markets, after whistling up $1.48 million in its fourth frame. The WB rom-com starring Constance Wu, Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Ronny Chieng and Remy Hii has hauled in $159.4 million in the US and $206.4 million globally.

Fox’s The Predator crashed to Earth, tumbling by 56 per cent to $1.05 million in its second weekend. Shane Black’s action-adventure starring Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Alfie Allen, Jake Busey and Yvonne Strahovski has scored a tepid $4.1 million in Oz and $40.9 million in the US.

Smallfoot, the tale of a bright young Yeti who finds something he thought didn’t exist, a human, featuring a voice cast led by Channing Tatum, James Corden, Zendaya, Common and LeBron James, drew $983,000.

Disney’s Christopher Robin slumped by 42 per cent to $839,000 in its second weekend, tallying $3.6 million, but should get an uplift during the holidays. Marc Forster’s family film starring Ewan McGregor, Jim Cummings and Brad Garrett has ambled along to $96.9 million in the US – a rare miss for the studio.

WB’s supernatural horror movie The Nun advanced to $7.7 million after making $829,000 in its third weekend. The Conjuring franchise spin-off directed by Corin Hardy has amassed $100.6 million in the US and $292.5 million globally.

Directed by Eli Roth, The House with a Clock in Its Walls, an adaptation of John Bellairs and Edward Gorey’s children’s story, surpassed industry expectations in the US, conjuring up $26.6 million. So the Australian opening of $771,000 and $892,000 with previews for the eOne release starring Cate Blanchett, Jack Black and Kyle MacLachlan was relatively modest but takings should spike during the holidays.

Competition from other kids’ titles is taking its toll on WB’s animated feature Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, which earned $258,000 in its second weekend, reaching $1.1 million.

Few of Nicolas Cage’s dwindling band of fans turned up for Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic revenge thriller Mandy, which garnered $40,000 on 31 screens and $81,000 with previews and festival screenings for Madman.

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