Victorian cinemagoers have propelled Christopher Nolan’s Tenet back to the top of the local box office, with exhibitors in the state further encouraged by loosening of capacity restrictions from today.

The Warner Bros. title, now 13 weeks in release Australia-wide, brought in $512,954 from 139 screens, advancing to $13.5 million.

IMAX Melbourne reopened last Thursday with back-to-back screenings of the thriller, with Nolan having recorded an exclusive message for the cinema.

It is one of just 13 sites in the world to screen it on IMAX 1570 film; the majority of Tenet was shot with IMAX 15 perforation 70mm (1570) film cameras.

“All upcoming sessions of Tenet are largely sold out and we will be releasing more tickets this week to accommodate demand,” IMAX Melbourne GM Richard Morrison tells IF.

Tenet‘s result meant Australia was once again the second highest performing market for the film last weekend after the US. Globally, the title has now reached $US356 million.

Overall, the top 20 titles amassed $2.9 million for the local box office, down 12 per cent on last week, according to Numero.

The numbers were no doubt hindered South Australia’s short-term lockdown last week. All sessions at Wallis Cinemas’ SA sites were cancelled from Thursday to Saturday, reopening Sunday.

Lawrence of Arabia was one of our best performing titles at Mitcham and Mount Barker. Illustrates how much of a turbulent weekend we had here in SA,” programming manager David Simpson tells IF.

While there remains a lack of headline new releases, the box office should get a further boost in the coming weeks as Victorian cinema capacity expands from today.

Further, many exhibitors across the country are positive for the near future given WB’s confirmation it will release Wonder Woman 1984 on Boxing Day.

“It continues to give audiences confidence in returning to the theatre,” said Morrison.

Previously, Victorian cinema capacity was capped at 20 people per theatre. Today, that expands to 150, subject to social distancing restrictions of one person per four square metres and 1.5 metres between each group.

“That will increase the number of seats available substantially, particularly in our larger Vmax auditoriums,” Village Cinemas national film programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.

“It’s certainly a welcome relief given the restrictions of the last 10 days. We’re now hoping for further lifting of restrictions prior to Christmas, in time for the Boxing Day releases of Wonder Woman 1984 and The Croods: A New Age.

Tenet was no. 1 for Village Cinemas, followed by another title Victorians missed out on while in lockdown, Trolls: World Tour. New releases All My Life and Fatman were further down the list.

Universal Pictures’ ‘All My Life’, directed by Marc Meyers.

Carlton’s Cinema Nova saw an uptick of seven per cent in its second weekend back in business, with CEO Kristian Connelly noting key titles either increased weekend-on-weekend or held steady.

Tenet was number one for the the cinema, followed by strong showings for Bong Joon-ho reissue Memories of Murder, local drama Babyteeth, and Miranda July’s Kajillionaire.

“The changes to capacities will positively impact around two-thirds of our screens, including seeing a tripling of available seats in our two largest theatres, but after a fortnight of sold-out sessions due to the expired 20 person limit, we are still not clear on the business’ potential, so we look forward to getting a stronger sense of audience interest over the coming days,” Connelly tells IF.

“The increase of our cinema capacities also provides us with the opportunity to add events to our line-up, including our first post-lockdown filmmaker Q&A for documentary Brazen Hussies as well as a number of concert events that we commence with the new cinema week, including K-Pop event BTS, David Byrne’s American Utopia and the London stage production of Kinky Boots.”

At NSW’s Majestic Cinemas, local comedy drama Rams continued to hold well, Freaky was popular with teenagers, and Catherine Dwyer’s AACTA-nominated doco Brazen Hussies was a “surprise hit”, with CEO Kieren Dell noting it had a “really positive reaction”.

“Otherwise, pretty lacklustre – Fatman and All My Life were quite slow for new releases,” says Dell.

“We had some special events such as a Surf Festival and the Travelling Film Festival at various sites, which saw very good numbers, showing people are ready and willing to come in large numbers when we have content that interests them. Looking forward to Wonder Woman, The Croods and The Dry at Christmas/New Year though!”

Universal’s All My Life follows a couple (Harry Shum Jr., Jessica Rothe) whose wedding plans are thrown off course when the groom is diagnosed with liver cancer. Directed by Marc Meyers, the film is based on the real-life story Solomon Chau and Jenn Carter, in a screenplay written by Todd Rosenberg.

Opening on 228 screens, the romance took $295,101, seeing it land in fourth spot behind Tenet, Freaky and Rams. The film bows Stateside December 3.

An action thriller meets black comedy, Fatman sees Mel Gibson play Chris Cringle, aka Santa Claus, who is forced into a partnership with the US military in order to save his declining business.

The film has earned mixed reviews from critics, with a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating of 43 per cent. The website states: “Fatman takes a surprisingly serious approach to a potentially ludicrous twist on the Santa Claus legend, aiming for edgy but mostly missing the mark.”

Icon opened the film locally on 215 screens, amassing $240,356. Pro-rata, that is better than the US opening, where the film made $US108,000.

Among the specialty releases was Madman’s Japanese anime fantasy Fate/stay night: Heaven’s Feel III. spring song, which opened on $87,303 from 39 screens; it was the ninth best performer of the weekend.

Mel Gibson in Icon’s ‘Fatman’.

Universal/Blumhouse’s body swap thriller Freaky tumbled 41 per cent in its second frame, taking $347,071 from 251 screens. Directed and co-written by Christopher Landon, the film now sits at just over $1 million overall.

Jeremy Sims’ Rams, starring Sam Neill and Michael Caton, also took a fall over its fourth weekend, dropping 39 per cent to ring up $309,136.

The Roadshow film has now made $3.4 million overall, making it the second highest earning Australian film of the year, second only to pre-COVID title The Invisible Man.

Now in its fifth frame, Rialto’s The Honest Thief clocked $257,848, advancing the actioner to $2.8 million.

Trolls World Tour fell just 17 per cent in its 10th weekend in release, to take $234,650. The animated Universal film has now made $8.1 million, around $10 million shy of the 2016 original.

The stellar cast of Madman’s The Comeback Trail failed to entice audiences over its second weekend, tumbling 55 per cent to earn $103,662. It now sits on $400,616

Rounding out the top ten was Studiocanal’s Radioactive, which stars Rosamund Pike as double Nobel Prize-winner Marie Curie. Now in its third orbit, it made $77,010 to advance to $507,368.

Among the local fare, R&R Films’ Never Too Late took a tumble in its fifth weekend, dropping 50 per cent to earn $37,679. Overall the geezer comedy, directed by Mark Lamprell and starring James Cromwell, Jacki Weaver and Jack Thompson has made $845,765.

Monica Zanetti’s queer rom-com Ellie and Abbie (& Ellie’s Dead Aunt) opened on 14 screens for Arcadia Films, making $6.2K or $12K with previews.

Film Art Media expanded Dwyer’s Brazen Hussies to 39 screens as part of a regional roll out of the doco, which documents the Women’s Liberation Movement in Australia. The film was up 10 per cent on last week to earn $17K, advancing to $76K overall.

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