‘The Personal History of David Copperfield.’

The floodgates opened last weekend with more than a dozen new releases led by The Personal History of David Copperfield, plus several re-issues as more cinemas turned the lights back on.

However the grosses per title reflect the “new normal,” with limited seating capacity and reduced sessions.

The safe distancing rules mean there is a cap of 20 people per session in Victoria, between 20 per cent and 45 per cent in New South Wales and 50 per cent in South Australia.

The top 20 titles racked up nearly $2.5 million, up 251 per cent on the previous frame, according to Numero.

Released by Roadshow, Armando Ianucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, a re-imagination of the Charles Dickens novel starring Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi and Ben Whishaw, rang up $330,000 on 203 screens and $376,000 including previews.

“Cinemas in some states only just reopened and it takes time for audiences to become accustomed to going to the movies again after such a long absence,” Village Cinemas programming manager Geoff Chard tells IF.

“Victoria and Tasmania’s share of the national BO was quite low at 26 per cent, around 5-6 points below normal. But with capacity restrictions of 20 people per session that’s not surprising at all.

“Obviously there are a large number of Victorian residents who can’t attend the cinema given the current restrictions but people are coming out and watching films, new ones like David Copperfield as well as older films like Ghostbusters that we ran this week.”

Majestic Cinemas’ seven locations in regional NSW re-opened, mostly screening holdovers plus Kriv Stenders’ Brock: Over the Top (which is available on-demand) and Studiocanal’s animated kids’ film SamSam, both in their second weekend.

“Many of our cinemas are in older demographic regional areas where many older patrons are still hesitant to return,” says CEO Kieren Dell. “Business was very slow due to limited and staggered sessions and older content, but it gave us a chance to test our new protocols prior to school holidays starting today in NSW.

“The major feedback from customers was them asking when we would have the new big movies such as Mulan,” which opens on August 21.

Remarkably, Universal’s The Invisible Man was the second most popular title nationally last weekend, 19 weeks after it premiered. Leigh Whannell’s supernatural thriller delivered $214,000 on 182 screens, raising the total to $8.5 million.

Rialto’s Love Sarah, a UK drama which marks the feature directing debut of Eliza Schroeder, is pitched at the same demographic as the Copperfield movie.

The tale of a young woman who enlists the help of her mother’s best friend and her eccentric estranged grandmother to fulfill her late mother’s dream of opening a bakery in Notting Hill, it cooked up $146,000 on 166 screens including sneaks.

‘The Legend of the Five.’

The same distributor’s Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs, a South Korean animated fantasy film based the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tale, drew $144,000 on 172 screens.

Madman Entertainment’s The Booksellers, a feature documentary set in New York City’s book world directed by D. W. Young, took $29,000 on 36 screens.

Transmission’s Kiwi import Bellbird, Hamish Bennett’s feature debut about a small town community that comes together after a tragic death, starring Marshall Napier, Annie Whittle and Cohen Holloway, opened with $17,000 on 30 and $83,000 with festivals advance screenings.

Potential Films launched Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s It Must Be Heaven, a series of comic vignettes set in Paris, Nazareth and New York, on 11 screens, collecting $8,400 and $12,000 with sneaks.

Limelight’s A Son, Tunisian director Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s family drama starring Sami Bouajila as a man whose son is gunned down by terrorists, generated $7,000 on 15 and $10,000 with previews.

Actor Joanne Samuel’s feature directing debut, fantasy-adventure The Legend of the Five, fetched $6,300 on 16 screens and $7,100 including previews.

Released by Film Ink Presents, the tale of five teenagers who encounter an ancient relic stars Lauren Esposito, Leigh Scott, Deborah An, Gabi Sproule and Nicholas Andrianakos.

Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly described the weekend business at his location as respectable, buoyed by Copperfield, The Booksellers and It Must Be Heaven.

“Despite COVID-19 and a vast number of other cinemas opening across Melbourne last Thursday, Cinema Nova was the highest grossing hardtop in Victoria,” he said.

Wallis Cinemas’ senior advisor Bob Parr was happy with Copperfield’s ticket sales as the circuit resumed trading last week and is confident it will gather momentum. But he said Love Sarah and The Booksellers were soft, both suffering from lack of awareness.

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