‘The Combination Redemption’.

Sony’s psychological thriller Escape Room was the top title last weekend, yet with a mediocre result which would have normally seen the film opening at No. 5 or 6, as ticket sales continued to free fall.

Meanwhile the sequel to 2009 cult hit The Combination struggled to make an impact despite positive coverage by David Stratton and Fairfax Media’s Garry Maddox, underlining yet again the challenges facing most Aussie films which go out on limited screens with minimal P&A support.

Audiences are sick and tired of watching a vengeful Liam Neeson brandishing a gun, judging by the debuts of Cold Pursuit here and in the US.

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex, eOne’s third last release before the distributor shuts at the end of March, fared OK at upmarket locations but poorly at multiplexes.

A contender for the best foreign language Oscar, Madman’s Capharnaüm opened strongly at Cinema Nova and not so well elsewhere.

The stand-out among the new releases was Chinese sci-fi actioner The Wandering Earth, a monster hit in China which delivered a hefty per-screen average of nearly $23,000 for CMC.

The top 20 titles collectively rang up $10.7 million, 12 per cent down on the previous weekend, which in turn was 36 per cent off the prior frame, according to Numero.

“The weekend results were extremely poor with none of the new releases capturing the interest of audiences,” says Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close. “I had hoped for more business from On the Basis of the Sex; however word-of-mouth is good and it will likely have a fairly decent run in upmarket cinemas.”

Directed by Adam Robitel and starring Taylor Russell, Logan Miller, Deborah Ann Woll, Jay Ellis and Tyler Labine, Escape Room scared up $1.32 million. Pro-rata that was well below the US, where the saga of six strangers who are trapped in a sadistic game of life or death launched with $18.2 million and ended up with $54.6 million – a handsome return for a $9 million budget.

The five Oscar nominations for eOne’s Green Book are paying off as the Peter Farrelly-directed true-life drama starring Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali fetched $1.14 million in its third weekend, easing by 21 per cent, to reach $6.1 million.

Warner Bros./Bron Studio/Imperative Entertainment’s The Mule moseyed along to $6.5 million after minting $1.07 million in its third. The Clint Eastwood vehicle is running out of gas in the US after making $102.5 million.

Directed by Hans Petter Moland and based on the Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance, Cold Pursuit stars Neeson as a snow-plow driver who seeks revenge against the drug dealers he thinks killed his son.

Moviegoers collectively shrugged “not again,” shelling out $1 million for the Studiocanal release, although the distributor said the first weekend was only slightly behind those of The Commuter, Walk Among Tombstones and John Wick.

The US debut was $10.8 million, not in the least helped by last week’s controversy over the actor’s ill-considered remarks about staking out black communities and random people in order to deliver payback for the rape of a female friend 40 years ago.

Mimi Leder’s On the Basis of Sex, which stars Felicity Jones as Ginsburg, the crusading law professor and lawyer who dedicated herself to ending gender discrimination, and Armie Hammer as her husband, drummed up $918,000 on 227 screens including previews.

Disney’s Glass advanced to $9.4 million after snaring $546,000 in its fourth. M Night Shyamalan’s sequel to Split has generated a respectable $221.5 million globally.

Directed by Frant Gwo, based on Liu Cixin’s short story and starring Wu Jing, The Wandering Earth nabbed $527,000 on just 23 screens. In China the tale of a massive project to move Earth’s residents to a remote star system and thus save the human race before the Sun scorches the planet has amassed a phenomenal $298 million in just six days.

With global takings of $821 million, Bohemian Rhapsody now ranks as Fox’s seventh highest grossing title of all time. Here The Queen biopic advanced to $52.4 million after minting $522,000 in its 15th weekend.

Paramount’s Instant Family collected $504,000 in its fifth frame, climbing to $11.9 million. In the US the comedy starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro ended with $66.6 million.

Warner Bros’ juggernaut Aquaman has hauled in $1.12 billion worldwide, including Australia’s $41.3 million after pocketing $369,000 in its seventh orbit.

Released by Sony Pictures, Shawn Seet’s Storm Boy hooked $168,000 in its fourth weekend, rising to $4.58 million.

Nadine Labaki’s Capharnaüm, a child refugee drama which won the jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year, opened on 27 screens, grossing $76,000 and $129,000 with festival screenings. Cinema Nova’s Kristian Connelly reported brisk business for Labaki’s film and the other Oscar contenders.

Pinnacle Films launched David Field’s The Combination Redemption, a crime drama set in Sydney’s Western suburbs starring George Basha, Rahel Romahn and Neveen Hanna, on 38 screens, making $70,000.

Field made his directing debut on the 2009 film which starred Basha as John Morkos, a Lebanese-Australian who is released after 18 months in jail and discovers his teenage brother Charlie (Firass Dirani) is involved with a Lebanese gang which is feuding with a bunch of Australian bigots.

Scripted by Basha, set six year later and conceived as a stand-alone film, the follow-up follows Morkos as he is still haunted by events that led to his death of his brother. Pinnacle has the international sales rights. The original film played on 32 screens, ran for 10 weeks and grossed an impressive $742,000.

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