‘The High Note.’

Universal’s musical dramedy The High Note premiered in the US on-demand and on about 100 screens, mostly drive-ins, in late May, while Warner Bros’ Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite! went straight to digital in the US.

So Australian exhibitors had modest expectations as both titles opened in cinemas last weekend while ticket sales remained depressed but should pick up from today with the school vacation.

Typifying the malaise, no title cracked $1 million last weekend as Numero reported the top 20 generated $3.6 million, down 5 per cent on the previous frame.

“The current school holiday line up is one of the worst I have ever seen,” Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari tells IF.

“The only major family film is Trolls World Tour and unfortunately we had to pass on it as, outside of a Frozen or a Toy Story, we can’t justify opening a family film outside the school holiday window and have it play for 10-plus days to empty houses. Especially not right now.

“You know business is in bad shape when the documentary David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet and a Star Wars re-release are your top two films by a wide margin.”

However the mood among exhibitors was brighter in other states thanks to Universal’s Trolls World Tour and Studiocanal’s The Secret Garden.

Among the Oz films in release, Kriv Stenders’ feature doc Slim & I has grossed $283,000 after its third weekend for Universal and Hayley MacFarlane’s Swimming for Gold has taken $65,000 in 11 days, self-distributed by producer Steve Jaggi.

A Premium VOD release in the US, the DreamWorks Animation-produced comedy Trolls World Tour was No 1, drawing $722,000 in its second weekend, lifting the total to $2.9 million.

Warner Bros’ Tenet topped $9.8 million after scoring $650,000 in its fifth outing. In US dollars Chris Nolan’s spy thriller has collected a mediocre $41.2 million in the US but a more than respectable $283.2 million globally.

China leads the way with $64.3 million followed by the UK’s $19.6 million, France’s $18 million, Germany’s $14.6 million and Korea’s $13.1 million.

‘Four Kids and It.’

Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden, the fourth adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, advanced to $897,000 after earning $348,000 in its second.

Roadshow’s After We Collided wooed $312,000 in its third. The Roger Kumble-directed romantic drama has banked $2.3 million, eclipsing the original’s $2.16 lifetime total last year.

Disney/Fox’s Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi rang up $251,000, beating The High Note’s $199,000. Directed by Late Night‘s Nisha Ganatra, the latter follows superstar diva Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross) and her overworked personal assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson), who dreams of becoming a music producer. Ice Cube plays Grace’s manager who presents her with a choice that could alter the course of her career and life.

Directed by Storm Surfer’s Sean McNamara, Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!, which features a voice cast led by Melissa Rauch, Max Greenfield and George Lopez, fetched a tame $157,000 and $282,000 with advance screenings.

A straight-to-home-entertainment title in the US, Paramount’s Paw Patrol: Jet to the Rescue has $836,000 after adding $143,000 in its third frame.

Madman Entertainment’s misfire Bill & Ted Face the Music garnered $102,000 in its third to reach $839,000.

Rialto launched director Andy De Emmony’s fantasy-action-adventure Four Kids and It on 128 screens, taking just $52,000 including previews. The tale follows four children who encounter a magical, sandy, grumpy creature called It (voiced by Michael Caine), who can grant them one wish a day.

Summing up the weekend, Wallis Cinema’s Bob Parr says: “We’re very happy with Trolls World Tour and The Secret Garden and we have kids on holidays from today. Four Kids and It was a disappointment; lack of marketing exposure I suspect.”

Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard observed: “Given the circumstances we’re quite pleased with the results of Trolls World Tour and The Secret Garden.

“The smaller titles like Astro Kid and Cats & Dogs 3 should come into their own over the next few days but are obviously lower down the must-see list for parents and kids.

The High Note was a little disappointing; it plays perfectly to the female market but there is obviously still a lot of hesitation in the market.”

Exhibitor Scott Seddon, who is Independent Cinemas Australia’s president, praised Rialto for having a go with Four Kids and It and thanked Universal MD Mike Baard for ensuring Trolls had a cinema release.

At the end of March, Seddon told members the recovery of the cinema business depended on three factors: Making cinemas safe for patrons and staff; persuading moviegoers it’s safe to return; and having a plentiful supply of appealing films.

“We have 1 covered and I think we are making substantive progress with 2 so item 3 is the issue,” he tells IF.

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