‘Palm Beach.’

The head-to-head clash between Universal’s Palm Beach and Transmission Films’ Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan last weekend was far from ideal, but both films are positioned to have leggy runs thanks to word of mouth.

Rachel Ward’s Palm Beach opened in third spot behind the fourth weekend of Disney’s blockbuster The Lion King and the second lap of Universal’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Scripted by Ward and Joanna Murray-Smith, the comedy-drama about a group of lifelong friends reuniting to celebrate a special birthday rang up $1.14 million on 250 locations and $1.23 million with previews.

Starring Bryan Brown, Sam Neill, Greta Scacchi, Richard E Grant, Jacqueline McKenzie, Claire van der Boom, Aaron Jeffrey, Heather Mitchell and Matilda Brown, the film opened 3 per cent ahead of Wayne Blair’s Top End Wedding, which finished with $5.2 million, and at the same level as Jeremy Sims’ Last Cab to Darwin, which ended up with $7.4 million.

Kriv Stenders’ Vietnam War movie, which stars Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, Richard Roxburgh, Daniel Webber, Nicholas Hamilton, Aaron Glenane and Anthony Hayes, ranked fourth, capturing $775,000 on 225 locations and $789,000 including advance screenings.

Palm Beach’s top locations were the Cremorne Orpheum, United Warriewood and Event Castle Hill in Sydney and Village Southland, Palace Brighton Bay, Palace Como and Palace Balwyn in Melbourne.

“We are very happy with the opening; it’s established the film in an emphatic way in what is still a very crowded market. We are well-placed for an extended run over the coming weeks,” Universal MD Mike Baard tells IF.

Deb Balderstone, who produced the comedy-drama with Brown, says: “We are thrilled with the result. It is not easy to open a film wide these days so we are very pleased to see audiences respond in such a positive manner.”

Conversely, Danger Close over-indexed in regional areas, faring best at the Dendy Canberra, Village Albury and Event cinemas in Queensland’s Pacific Fair, Palmerston and Toowoomba.

Transmission Films’ Andrew Mackie says: “We’re off to a strong start, particularly in Queensland, WA and regional areas. As always, from here word of mouth is key.”

Stenders adds: “We’ve been simply overwhelmed with the audience’s responses and reactions. It’s totally unlike anything I’ve experienced before. The film really seems to have deeply connected with people. We are hoping that the good word of mouth continues to spread and that we can build our audience over the coming weeks.”

Produced by Red Dune Productions’ Martin Walsh and Deeper Water Films’ John and Michael Schwarz, Stenders’ movie will open in US cinemas and on VOD on November 8 via Saban Films.

The top 20 titles generated $13.9 million, down 21 per cent on the previous frame according to Numero. Roadshow’s Emma Thompson/Mindy Kaling comedy Late Night struggled in line with its US results but the same distributor’s horror movie Midsommar opened strongly in limited release.

Disney’s The Lion King raced along to $55.1 million after minting $4.1 million. The Jon Favreau-directed musical fantasy adventure has amassed $1.335 billion globally, surpassing Beauty and the Beast to become the highest grossing Disney live action release of all-time.

The Fast & Furious spin-off scored nearly $3.9 million, off 46 per cent, advancing to $12.8 million. Directed by David Leitch, the action-adventure starring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham has bagged $108.5 million in the US and $224.1 million internationally.

Amazon Studios paid a reported $US13 million for US rights to Late Night after its Sundance premiere, which now seems rash in light of the US gross of $15.4 million. Here, the Nisha Ganatra-directed tale of an obnoxious talk show host (Thompson) who has an epiphany of sorts after hiring a wannabe comedy writer (Kaling) fetched $761,000 on 301 screens and $984,000 with advance screenings.

Sony/Marvel’s Spider-Man: Far From Home ascended to $36.8 million after nabbing $415,000 in its sixth orbit. The Jon Watts-directed sequel starring Tom Holland, Zendaya, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Remy Hii and Angourie Rice has hauled in $1.09 billion globally.

The Bring the Soul: The Movie documentary, which follows South Korean boy band BTS at the end of its Love Yourself tour in Europe, directed by Park Jun Soo, whistled up $404,000 and $524,000 with previews on 106 screens for Trafalgar Releasing.

Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 drew $376,000 in its eighth chapter, climbing to $40.9 million. Directed by Josh Cooley, the comedy has raked in $990 million globally, with Germany and Scandinavia ahead.

Universal/Working Title’s Yesterday reached $13.1 million after collecting $247,000 in its fifth.

Writer-director Ari Aster’s Midsommar, the saga of a couple who travel to Sweden to visit their friend’s rural hometown for its mid-summer festival and are caught up in a violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult, scared up $186,000 on 16 screens and $223,000 with sneaks.

Summing up the weekend business, Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly tells IF: “The weekend was a terrific demonstration of how similarly-skewed films can play strongly to different segments of that audience, with Danger Close appealing to older audiences generally outside of urban centres while Palm Beach performed best in wealthier upscale areas and Late Night played to urban inner city audiences – as evidenced by Nova being the top grossing venue for the Emma Thompson comedy.

“Arguably all three may have fared better had they not opened on the same weekend but each will enjoy a long season with its respective audience. Midsommar, which topped the box office at Cinema Nova and ensured the film will reach a final box office total of over $100,000 at the location, avoided the ‘curse’ of the R18+ rating thanks to a targeted release at upscale and art house venues where the film can play best to audiences open to the film’s dread-soaked slow-burn.

“Traditionally August has been a poor month for upscale exhibition as distribution held back films to avoid competing with the Melbourne International Film Festival. This year, thanks to campaigning by exhibition and the support of distribution, August has bucked the trend and delivered strong results thanks to a larger selection of appealing art house and crossover releases.”

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