Sally Phillips in 'How To Please A Woman'. (Image: David Dare Parker)

Australian cinema made a welcome return to box office top three on the weekend as Madman’s Fremantle-shot How To Please a Woman came in behind Marvel juggernaut Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness and Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Leading the way again was Disney’s Doctor Strange sequel, which took in $3.9 million from its third frame for a gross total of $32.8 million, representing a decline of 47 per cent from the previous week. Universal’s latest Downton Abbey installment was a distant second, managing $578,991 from its fourth outing to track at $6.6 million. The film also had its release in the US, where it made a solid $16 million domestic debut.

It was closely followed by How To Please a Woman, which bowed to $501,064 from 294 screens at an average of $1,704 per session to build on a positive initial response from festival screenings in Perth and on the Gold Coast.

Renée Webster’s feature directorial debut stars British comedian and actor Sally Phillips as Gina, a 50-something who has lost her job and is stuck in a passionless marriage.

While Gina has always lived life on the sidelines, she is met with a business opportunity to convert team of well-built moving guys into housecleaners. Clientele soon demand something more – sex, or better yet, pleasure. Gina and her team launch an enterprise that is all about getting intimacy right between people, but she soon has to acknowledge her own appetite in order to make a new life for herself.

Starring alongside Phillips are Erik Thomson, Alexander England, Caroline Brazier, Tasma Walton, Roz Hammond, Cameron Daddo and New Zealander Josh Thomson.

Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard told IF the film’s opening was comparable to that of fellow Australian releases June Again and Swinging Safari.

“Overall the box office was a little softer than hoped for, with How To Please A Woman being the highest-ranked new opener at just over $500,000 nationally,” he said.

“This is similar to the recent Australian films June Again and Swinging Safari. The location-specific results were quite varied, with some sites (in particular our regional locations) much higher in the rankings, with the majority our suburban multiplexes further down the list.”

Wallis Cinema programming manager David Simpson also said How To Please A Woman had “certain site-specific success” among its locations.

“We are finding that given this is an Aussie film, it is doing well where we customarily have a lot of ex-pat regulars,” he said.

Retaining their positions from the previous weekend were Paramount’s The Lost City and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which ranked fourth and fifth, respectively. The former garnered $468,901 from its sixth weekend to pass $15 million overall, while the latter had $446,375 from its eighth frame for a gross total of $21.7 million.

At sixth was the new Roadshow mystery thriller Last Seen Alive, starring Gerard Butler and directed by Brian Goodman. The film debuted to $383,563 from 202 screens to record an average of $1,899 per session.

Universal’s animated adventure The Bad Guys occupied seventh position in its eighth weekend of release, taking in $382,518 for an overall total of $14.9 million.

Transmission’s WW2 drama Operation Mincemeat had the biggest drop of the top ten from last weekend, going from third to eighth in its second outing with $358,907, representing a 40 per cent decrease from its debut.

Only just behind was Roadshow’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, which made $355,949 from its sixth frame to move past $4 million overall. It comes as the martial arts family fantasy feature made history in the US, becoming entertainment company A24’s highest-grossing movie ever at the domestic box office with a take between USD$50-$52 million (Deadline).

Pushing Warner Bros. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore out of the top ten for the first time was Mindblowing’s new Indian Hindi-language comedy horror film Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2, which bowed to $343,330 from 69 screens for a strong average of $4,976 per session.

In total, the top 20 films grossed $8.7 million, down another 32 per cent from last week.

That number seems set for lift-off this weekend, however, as Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick hits screens on May 26.

“Pre-sales are outstanding for the night before and week of release,” Simpson said.

“Great balls of fire!”

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