‘1917’ (Photo credit: Universal Pictures).

Sam Mendes’ WW1 epic 1917, which ranks fourth in the betting for the best picture Oscar, opened in top spot in Australia last weekend and was No. 1 in the US.

The pundits polled by Gold Derby have the Amblin/DreamWorks production at odds of 8/1, behind Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood at 7/1 and Martin Scorcese’s The Irishman and Boon Joon Ho’s Parasite, both at 15/2.

The odds for best film, director and other categories may well change tomorrow when the Academy Awards nominations are announced.

In Oz the new releases including Roadshow’s My Spy, Studiocanal’s A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon and Indian imports Darbar, Sarileru Neekevvaru, Ala Vaikunthapurramloo and Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior kept ticket sales at a healthy level.

The top 20 titles generated $23.8 million, down 10 per cent on the previous frame, according to Numero. Nationwide, the calendar 2019 grosses totaled $1.22 billion, a smidgen lower than 2018’s $1.245 billion.

Inspired by Sam Mendes’ grandfather’s experiences in WW1 and co-written by the director and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917 captured almost $4.8 million on 257 screens for eone/Universal. The drama, which stars George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman as British corporals who are sent across enemy territory to deliver a message that will stop a deadly attack on hundreds of soldiers, commanded an impressive $36.5 million in its first weekend wide in the US. The running total in the US is $39.2 million since the limited Christmas debut.

Sony’s blockbuster Jumanji: The Next Level scored $4.3 million in its third frame, hoisting the total to $36.6 million. Jake Kasdan’s action fantasy starring Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart and Karen Gillan has hauled in $671 million worldwide including $414 million from international markets.

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Hugh Grant, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding and Michelle Dockery, Guy Ritchie’s crime caper The Gentlemen collared $2.3 million in its second, delivering $8.2 million for Roadshow.

Little Women, Greta Gerwig’s reinterpretation of the Louisa May Alcott novel, advanced to $8.6 million after pocketing $2.128 million in its second for Sony. The $40 million romantic drama starring Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern and Meryl Streep has collected a nifty $74 million since Christmas Day in the US.

Disney’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker vaulted to $43.1 million after minting $2.112 million in its fourth. JJ Abrams’ sci-fi epic has clocked $990 million globally, split between domestic’s $478 million and international’s $512 million.

My Spy, which stars Dave Bautista as a hardened CIA operative who finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old (Chloe Coleman) after being ordered to surveil her family, took a middling $1.28 million on 249 screens.

The action comedy directed by Peter Segal was due to open in the US last August but the distributor STX postponed the release until next March after Bautista’s Stuber bombed.

Disney/Fox’s Spies in Disguise drew $1.2 million in its second and $4.8 million thus far. The animated sci-fi comedy featuring the voices of Will Smith and Tom Holland, co-directed by Troy Quane and Nick Bruno, is a modest performer in the US, making $54.6 million.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Frozen II advanced to $36.9 million after adding $1.1 million in its seventh. The sequel co-directed by the original’s Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee stands at $1.371 billion worldwide, the 11th highest earner of all time, streaking past Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Black Panther.

Directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which sees Shaun and Co. encounter a cute alien with extraordinary powers and have to find a way to return her home before she falls into hands of the Ministry for Alien Detection, raked in $893,000 on 249 screens and $1.1 million with advance screenings. That’s a fair start considering the original film produced by Aardman Animations ended up with $6.4 million.

Disney/Fox Searchlight’s Jojo Rabbit reached $4.9 million after drumming up $762,000 in its third. Taika Waititi’s Nazi satire starring Roman Griffin Davis, Scarlett Johansson, Kiwi Thomasin McKenzie and the director as Hitler is a niche title in the US, taking $21.9 million.

Tamil-language action thriller Darbar (Court) written and directed by A. R. Murugadoss, which stars Rajinikanth as a cop who takes on a mafia drug kingpin in Mumbai, mustered $413,000 on 36 screens for Southern Star.

The same distributor launched Sarileru Neekevvaru (Nobody Can Match You), a Telugu-language actioner written and directed by Anil Ravipudi, which follows Mahesh Babu as an army major in Kashmir on a mission to keep the country safe from external threats, on 36 screens, yielding $285,000.

Telegu director Trivikram Srinivas’ Ala Vaikunthapurramloo, a romantic comedy/drama featuring Allu Arjun and Pooja Hegde, bagged $258,000 on 28 for Tolly Movies.

Ajay Devgn plays the military leader of the 17th Century Maratha Empire who sets out to recapture a fortress in director Om Raut’s Hindi action drama Tanhaji: The Unsung Warrior, which collected $223,000 on 43 for Forum Films.

Summing up the weekend, Wallis Cinemas senior adviser Bob Parr tells IF: “1917 is an exciting result and Oscar nominations and word-of-mouth will help it more.

Jumanji: The Next Level is living up to its title, an incredible result. Little Women and The Gentlemen are holding well too. My Spy and Farmageddon were a little soft; they deserved more but have time.”

Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly observes: “Award season is in full swing with the major contenders dominating the box office. 1917 opened strongly at Cinema Nova, but due to the number of competing screens in our immediate catchment it wasn’t enough to topple first and second place titles Jojo Rabbit – which continues to over perform in Carlton – and Little Women. Holdovers Parasite and Joker are also enjoying a significant Oscar/Globes uptick.”

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