BO Report: Ticket sales languish as audiences shun new releases

‘City of Lies.’

Last weekend’s broad new releases in Australian cinemas included a US crime thriller that was completed in 2018, a political satire that went straight to digital in the US and a melancholy UK drama about a marriage breakdown.

Not surprisingly, ticket sales languished as André Rieu’s Magical Maastricht – Together In Music was the only new title to post a decent per screen average.

Through Sunday, the national box office for the year to date stands at $330 million – a catastrophic 67 per cent decline on the $1.01 billion racked up in the same period in 2019.

Tellingly, the highest-grosser at the Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace last weekend was the Netflix-commissioned Rebecca, a remake of a 1940 Alfred Hitchcock classic adapted from  Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel.

Directed by Ben Wheatley, the romantic thriller starring Lily James and Armie Hammer follows a young newlywed who arrives at her widower husband’s family estate and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, the elegant and urbane Rebecca. Kristin Scott Thomas plays the family’s sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.

Premiering on the streamer on Wednesday, the film is having a one-week  window at a handful of locations including Dendy Newtown,  Ritz Cinemas and Luna Cinemas in Perth.  “I remember a year ago The Orpheum being publicly criticised in the industry for running Netflix films on a limited window as it supposedly signalled the end of times,” GM Alex Temesvari tells IF.

“As it turns out, we have more films on offer for theatrical screenings from Netflix between now and Boxing Day then we have from most other distributors. Times have certainly changed and we need to adapt to survive.”

Numero reported the top 20 titles generated $2.1 million, down 37 per cent on the previous frame. Released by Roadshow, City of Lies was No. 1 by a slim margin, collecting a  mediocre $279,000 on 162 screens.

Directed by Brad Furman, the thriller starring Johnny Depp and Forest Whitaker was originally scheduled to open in the US in September 2018 but was yanked after the film’s location manager sued Depp, accusing him of  assault and battery on the set.

Depp plays LAPD detective Russell Poole, who teams up with  Whitaker’s  journalist Jack Jackson to investigate the unsolved murder of  rap star Notorious B.I.G.,  which occurred six months after the the death of his  rap rival Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas.

Distributed by Piece of Magic Entertainment, Rieu’s film featuring highlights from 15 years of the Dutch violin virtuoso’s  summer concerts in Maastricht’s  Vrijthof Square, plus exclusive interviews, rang up $271,000 on 129 screens.

Universal/DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls World Tour advanced to $6.8 million after adding $247,000 in its fifth frame.

Warner Bros’ Tenet reached $11.6 million after scoring $203,000 in week eight.  Winding down, in US dollars Chris Nolan’s spy thriller has amassed $334 million worldwide. China leads with $66.3 million followed by the US’s $50.6 million, the UK’s $22.1 million, France’s $21.9 million and  Japan’s $21.6 million.

The Outpost, the Rod Lurie-directed military thriller adapted from CNN anchor Jake Tapper’s book, dropped by 51 per cent to $140,000 in its second frame, delivering a ho-hum $516,000 for Roadshow.

Studiocanal’s The Secret Garden stands at $2.7 million after making $137,000 in its fifth.

Written and directed by William Nicholson, Hope Gap stars  Annette Bening as Grace, who is shocked to learn Edward (Bill Nighy), her husband of 29 years,  is leaving her for another woman.

‘Hope Gap’.

The leads are impressive, as is Josh O’Connor as the couple’s conflicted son, but it’s a dour subject and Transmission Films’ release fetched $119,000 on 167 and $155,000 with festival screenings and previews.

Universal Pictures launched the  Jon Stewart-directed political satire Irresistible, a digital release in the US, on 164, taking just $118,000. Steve Carell plays a Democrat political consultant who helps a retired Marine colonel (Chris Cooper) run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town.

Word-of-mouth isn’t helping Gregor Jordan’s Dirt Music, which lost sessions and plunged by 54 per cent to $86,000 in its second outing on 188 screens. The Universal release starring Kelly Macdonald, Garrett Hedlund and David Wenham has pocketed $472,000.

Summing up the weekend, Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard said: “Box office across the board was pretty subdued, with only André Rieu and City of Lies cracking the $250,000 mark for the weekend.

“At least distributors have been able to keep some of these titles on the theatrical schedule, rather than going straight to home entertainment.

“I’m surprised by the drop on Dirt Music. For an Australian film I was expecting the audience to take a little while to find it, but it appears that it’s been completely overlooked.”

Wallis Cinema’s Bob Parr said: “André Rieu saved us. It was number one at all our sites except one where it was number two. Trolls topped that site. Everything else was sad. “