Jodie Comer as Marguerite de Carrouges in 20th Century Studios' 'The Last Duel' (Photo: Patrick Redmond. © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.)

For the first time in quite a while, last weekend saw major new releases enter the Australian theatrical market, in the form of Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel and Aussie James Wan’s horror Malignant.

Yet neither could catch Marvel film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

While last weekend was technically the Disney title’s eighth in release, for Sydneysiders just emerging from lockdown, it is only the second weekend the film has been available.

Pent-up demand saw it collect $1.2 million, just a 20 per cent dip, moving to just shy of $13 million.

According to Numero, the top 20 titles mustered $3.3 million, up 7 per cent on the previous.

This coming weekend should see the market return to some semblance of normal for the first time since June, with cinemas in Melbourne and Canberra able to reopen from Friday.

However, most exhibitors don’t expect the box office to bounce back in earnest until November with the release of The Eternals and No Time To Die.

Alex Temesvari, GM of Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, reports a decent second week of trading, with The Last Duel the most popular new release, and audiences still showing interest in Shang-Chi and Respect.

“However our biggest successes were again with alternative content with a sold out screening of The Alpinist pulling in over 500 people and also healthy turnouts for 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm and a 20th anniversary screening of Spirited Away,” he tells fi.

Outside of Sydney, exhibitors report that The Last Duel helped to turn things marginally, but that Malignant failed to connect.

The Last Duel had a pulse, but it was hurt by the MA rating in regional areas in particular, given it is aimed at an older audience, who aren’t all comfortable yet in returning to the cinema. Malignant, given its R rating, was not a hit with our audiences,” Majestic Cinemas Kieren Dell tells IF.

The Last Duel, starring Jodie Comer, Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck, opened in second on $820,659 from 323 screens. Pro-rata, that is a stronger opening than the US, where it bowed on just $US4.8 million.

The historical epic, based on the book by Eric Jager, stars Damon as a knight who challenges his friend and squire (Driver) to a duel, after his wife (Comer) accuses him of rape. The film, which reportedly was budgeted at $US100 million, has made $US17 million so far worldwide.

Warner Bros. Malignant, which stars Annabelle Wallis as a woman who begins to have visions of people being murdered, bowed to $250,879 from 195 screens. The result sees it ahead of recent horrors Don’t Breathe 2 and Candyman, though both those films were hurt by cinema closures. Worldwide, the film – budgeted at $US40 million – has amassed $US33.3 million.

In fourth position was Disney’s Free Guy, which collected $183,310 in its 11th frame, moving to $8.5 million overall, while Paramount’s Paw Patrol: The Movie edged close to $3 million after gathering $144,730 in its sixth weekend.

In limited release, White Hill’s Punjabi-language rom-com Honsla Rakh gathered $129,763 in its second weekend from just 39 screens, advancing to $478,473.

WB’s The Suicide Squad moved toward $6 million after a result of $107,467 in its 12th, while stablemate Space Jam: A New Legacy is on $12.9 million after 15 weekends, having rung up $105,750.

Disney’s Jungle Cruise collected $80,988 in its 13th weekend, moving to $4.8 million, while Rialto’s Ainbo: Amazon Princess rounded out the top 10 with a result of $64,048, seeing it move to $1.7 million in total.

In terms of local film, Nitram collected another $38,967 in its fourth weekend to climb to $269,802 for Madman. Eric C.Nash’s rom-com Love You Like That, starring Mitchell Hope and Steph Tisdell, and distributed Pivot Pictures, opened on $31,167.

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