BO Report: ‘Maze Runner’ trilogy ends on a high while ‘Swinging Safari’ misses

‘Maze Runner:  The Death Cure.’

The Maze Runner trilogy looks like ending on an upbeat note, judging by the No. 1 debut of Maze Runner: The Death Cure in Australia last weekend, while local release Swinging Safari misfired.

A mediocre debut by The Commuter indicates Liam Neeson fans may be tiring of watching the 65-year-old as a kick-ass action star.

Meanwhile Oscars contender The Shape of Water registered a healthy per-screen average in its first weekend.

The top 20 titles collectively rang up $19.6 million, down 11.5 per cent on the previous weekend according to Numero.

Directed by Wes Ball, Maze Runner: The Death Cure captured $3.4 million at 252 cinemas for Fox. That’s better than the $3.1 million opening for The Maze Runner in 2014 and fractionally below the $3.5 million debut for Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials in 2015.

The first edition finished up with $14.1 million and the second made $13.4 million, so the final chapter of the young-adult fantasy franchise based on James Dashner’s novels could well reach or exceed that level.

Fox will launch the film, which sees the young heroes played by Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Rosa Salazar, Giancarlo Esposito and Barry Pepper on a quest to free a captured colleague (Ki Hong Lee), in the US and a bunch of other markets on January 26.

Stephan Elliott’s semi-autobiographical Swinging Safari boasts an attractive cast led by Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Julian McMahon, Radha Mitchell and Jeremy Sims. Becker Film Group ambitiously launched the comedy at 165 locations, generating just $520,000 and $589,000 with previews.

Two exhibitors told IF the 1970s-set film was not helped by being launched in ultra-competitive January and would have had more oxygen had it gone out in February.

Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly observes that Becker achieved a very respectable level of publicity and while the film fared best in Queensland, where it’s set, the lack of traction may be due to the wide selection of adult-skewing content in the market.

To the extent that reviews matter, News Corp’s Vicky Roach lauded the film as a “distinctive, exuberant, quintessentially Australian experience” while Fairfax Media’s Sandra Hall opined it switches frequently from the merely cynical to the totally cringe-worthy.

After three weeks at No 1, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle had to settle for second spot, rustling up $2.8 million, down 41 per cent. The fantasy reboot directed by Jake Kasdan has raked in $40.8 million, the third-highest earning international market behind China’s $US65.8 million and the UK’s $43.7 million. The global tally ascended to $767.8 million.

Showing terrific legs, Aussie director Michael Gracey’s The Greatest Showman whistled up $2 million in its fourth sojourn for Fox, easing by 20 per cent. The musical drama starring Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams has banked $20.2 million.

Universal’s hit musical comedy Pitch Perfect 3 reached $18.3 million after earning $1.3 million in its third weekend, off 50 per cent.

Steven Spielberg says he felt a sense of urgency to make The Post due to the Trump administration “bombarding the press and labelling the truth as fake if it suited them.”

That sentiment would play well in most of the US, where the drama chronicling the lies which successive governments told its people about the US involvement in Vietnam has pulled in $45.2 million after its second weekend of wide release.

The movie starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katharine “Kay” Graham, and Tom Hanks as Post editor Ben Bradlee fetched $1.1 million in its second weekend in Oz for eOne, falling by 39 per cent, advancing to $3.9 million.

The Commuter is Neeson’s fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra following Run All Night, Non-Stop and Unknown and may well be one too many.  The thriller which follows Neeson as an insurance salesman who gets caught up in a dangerous criminal conspiracy on his daily commute mustered $1.1 million at 210 cinemas for Studiocanal and $US25.7 million in 10 days in the US.

Another Oscars candidate, Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri advanced to $5.1 million after collecting $930,000 in its third weekend, slipping by 19 per cent, for Fox.

Director Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, which focuses on four weeks in 1940 when Britain’s Prime Minister changed the course of world history, captured $914,000  from 143 locations in its second weekend, down just 20 per cent. The drama starring Gary Oldman, Ben Mendelsohn, Lily James and Kristin Scott Thomas has grossed $2.7 million for Universal.

Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi has amassed $1.296 billion globally including Australia’s $56.1 million after drumming up $883,000 in its sixth frame,

Disney/Pixar’s under-performer Coco reached $9.5 million after drawing $768,000 in its fourth outing, a minor contribution to the worldwide total of $655.9 million.

Fox launched Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water on 68 screens, conjuring up $530,000 and $807,000 with previews, an encouraging start for the fantasy/drama starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg and Octavia Spencer.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower, a Japanese anime fantasy film directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, drew a modest $196,000 in its debut on 72 screens for Madman Entertainment.