BO Report: ‘M3GAN’, ‘Operation Fortune’ impress as ‘The Way of Water’ cracks $75m


M3GAN and Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre each enjoyed healthy debuts over the weekend, though Avatar: The Way of Water remains far and away the main attraction at the box office.

After five weekends, James Cameron’s Avatar sequel is already the sixth highest grossing film ever released in Australia at $75.1 million. The film will likely soon overpass Spider-Man: No Way Home, which finished last year on $81.7 million.

Distributed by Disney, The Way of Water’s receipts last weekend dipped by 37 per cent to $5.2 million.

The 2009 original film is the highest grossing film ever released, both in Australia – where it made $115.8 million – and worldwide, at $US2.9 billion. Globally, The Way of Water is now at $US1.9 billion, earning $US572 million in North America and China the leading international market at $US211 million.

However for those looking for theatrical alternatives to the spectacle of Pandora last weekend, M3GAN and Operation Fortune proved good options.

Universal and Blumhouse’s M3GAN, directed by Kiwi Gerard Johnstone, bowed at $1.9 million from 271 screens, just behind no. 2 title Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and is at $2.1 million with previews.

In the campy sci-fi horror, Allison Williams stars as a robotics engineer at a toy company builds an AI doll – dubbed the Model 3 Generative Android, aka M3GAN – that begins to take on a life of its own. Also starring are Violet McGraw and Ronny Chieng, with M3GAN voiced by Jenna Davis.

The film is based on a story by Aussie horror maestro James Wan and writer Akela Cooper. Wan is also one of the film’s producers via his company Atomic Monster, alongside Jason Blum, Michael Clear and Couper Samuelson.

M3GAN debuted in Australia a week behind the US/Canada, where it opened to $US30.4 million and now stands at $US60.2 million. The film, at 95 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, is enjoying significant word of mouth, with M3GAN already dubbed a gay icon.

By screen average, Universal’s M3GAN was on par with The Way of Water, averaging $7,105 per screen to TWOW‘s $7,133.

The weekend’s other major release, Roadshow’s Operation Fortune: Ruse de guerre bowed to $1.6 million from 319 screens, earning the no. 4 position. With previews, it stands at $2.3 million.

The Guy Ritchie actioner is lead by frequent collaborator Jason Statham as Orson Fortune, a special agent who with his team, recruits one of Hollywood’s biggest movie stars to help them on an undercover mission. The cast includes Audrey Plaza, Josh Hartnett, Hugh Grant and Bugzy Malone.

The film is yet to release in the US.

Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly believes Operation Fortune is filling a “considerable gap in the national market”; a 25+ male skew that’s currently “underserved once Avatar has been seen.”

“The Guy Ritchie film’s non-English language subtitle – likely indicating this is the first in a planned series – may have confused some of the target (watch this space as to whether US and UK releases retain the ‘Ruse de Guerre’) but WOM should be solid,” he says.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell agrees the film is filling a gap for audiences who may have already seen Avatar.

Operation Fortune had an encouraging start – I think audiences have been starved other than Avatar for some adult action,” he tells IF.

The other new release to crack the top 10 was MKS Retail’s Varisu, a Indian Tamil-language action drama directed by Vamshi Paidipally that follows a happy-go-lucky man for whom everything changes after the unexpected death of his foster father.

The film came in at no. 9, earning $341,519 from just 66 screens, a healthy screen average of $5,175, which puts it roughly on par with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Operation Fortune.

Numero data puts the top 20 titles at $15.6 million, down 10 per cent on the previous weekend.

Of the holdovers, Uni/Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots continues to hold well, dropping just 15 per cent in its third frame to $1.9 million. The latest instalment in the Shrek franchise now stands at $12.6 million overall.

Fellow family title Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, also in its third weekend, dropped 30 per cent to $1 million, bringing the Sony title’s cume to $8.4 million.

Sony stablemate A Man Called Otto now stands at $4.5 million after earning $919,430 in its third weekend, a dip of 31 per cent, while Whitney Houston: I Want To Dance with Somebody, also from Sony and in its third orbit, collected $437,212 to advance to $4.6 million.

The Banshees of Inisherin dropped only 6 per cent in its third to $425,852, likely aided by WOM from its Golden Globe wins, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Actor for Colin Farrell and Best Screenplay for Martin McDonagh.

The Disney film now stands at $3.1 million overall. For Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Place the film was the no. 1 title last weekend, overtaking Avatar.

“I expect the film to run well into February if not beyond at this stage,” GM Alex Temesvari says.

However, a Golden Globes boost did not seem to apply to Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, which won Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director. It slipped 41 per cent to $248,130 in its second weekend, with the Studiocanal title’s cume now $944,902.

Of the local titles, Robert Connolly’s Blueback, distributed by Roadshow, dropped down to 13th position, earning $214,379 across its third weekend, moving to $1.4 million.

Frances O’Connor’s debut directorial feature Emily, also produced by Connolly’s Arenamedia, bowed to $86,967 for Madman. With previews, it is at $237,271.

Emily, despite being an outstanding and assured directorial debut by Francis O’Connor, has an abundance of titles chasing the same female-skewing audience with bigger names attached or stronger critical acclaim,” Connelly reflects.

“Sadly for it, the UK awards attention hasn’t crossed the Atlantic to the US trophy season.”

The box office so far this year is up on this period in 2022 by roughly 28 per cent.

Looking forward into February, Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson is optimistic, with other awards contents such as The Whale and The Son still to come, as well as audience pleasers like Magic Mike’s Last Dance and Marvel/Disney’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

“We go into the next month with out-and-out faith steadiness is returning,” he says.