‘The Secret Garden.’

Exhibitors despaired as none of the new releases last weekend could catch the fourth frame of Warner Bros’ crowd-pleaser Tenet and no title cracked $1 million.

Positioned to cash in on school vacations which are underway in Queensland and start in other states this weekend, Universal’s Trolls World Tour launched brightly after several weeks of paid previews.

Studiocanal’s The Secret Garden, the fourth adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel, was less luminous but will hit its stride when kids are on holiday.

Sony Pictures’ The Broken Hearts Gallery is an appealing, well-crafted rom-com but it won few hearts, mirroring its meagre results in the US.

Palace’s French whodunit The Translators was the stand-out limited release while first-time feature director Hayley MacFarlane’s Swimming for Gold did OK.

Some programmers questioned why WB bothered to release An American Pickle, given the Seth Rogen-headlined comedy/drama skipped cinemas in the US and premiered on streaming service HBO Max.

Numero reported the top 20 titles generated $3.7 million last weekend, down 13 per cent on the previous frame.

Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace GM Alex Temesvari said: “I sound like a broken record but it was another soft weekend. I am taking a little comfort in the fact that business has been steady overall over the last few weeks.

“Things won’t change too much until we’re given another truly major title. We’re hoping that’s Death on the Nile next month but who knows? The most excruciating game of musical chairs ever played seems to be ongoing.”

Disney is due to launch Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, which sees Branagh reprise his role as Detective Hercule Poirot, alongside Gal Gadot, Armie Hammer, Annette Benning, Sophie Okonedo and Jennifer Saunders, on October 8.

Chris Nolan’s Tenet advanced to $8.9 million after scoring $857,000. In US dollars the spy thriller has amassed a mediocre $36.1 million in the US but a more than respectable $250 million globally.

China leads the way with $60.6 million, followed by the UK’s $18.2 million, France’s $15.6 million, Germany’s $12.9 million and Korea’s $11.9 million.

In the US, Trolls World Tour caused angst among exhibitors when Universal opted for a Premium VOD release. Here, the DreamWorks Animation-produced comedy has clocked a tidy $1.86 million after making $682,000 last weekend.

Wallis Cinema’s senior advisor Bob Parr congratulated Universal Pictures Australia MD Mike Baard for “fighting to keep it from streaming.”

Director Roger Kumble’s romantic drama After We Collided collared $532,000 in its second frame, dropping by 42 per cent. With $1.8 million in the till, the Roadshow release will soon surpass the $2.16 lifetime total of the original After last year, a remarkable result with Victorian cinemas, which rep 30 per cent of national BO, still closed.

Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden, which stars Dixie Egerickx as 10-year-old Mary, who is sent to live with her uncle Archibald Craven (Colin Firth), under the watchful eye of Mrs. Medlock (Julie Walters), fetched $371,000 on 192 screens including previews. It was the top title at Wallis’ upmarket sites in South Australia and ranked third at its other locations.

Village Cinemas national programming manager Geoff Chard observed: “The Secret Garden result was around the same mark as Goodbye Christopher Robin, which opened in November, so it has the potential to gross a lot more given the extra boost of the school holidays.”

A straight-to-home-entertainment title in the US, Paramount’s Paw Patrol: Jet to the Rescue has pocketed $627,000 after earning $182,000 in its second frame.

Word-of-mouth is a drag on Madman Entertainment’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, which plunged by 48 per cent to $177,000 in its second, bringing the total to $679,000.

Disney/Marvel dud’s The New Mutants crawled along to $1.1 million after adding $152,000 in its third. The sci-fi/action movie’s worldwide gross is a pitiful $35 million.

‘Swimming for Gold.’

Seth Rogen plays Herschel Greenbaum, a struggling labourer who emigrates to America in 1920, falls into a vat of pickles and is brined for 100 years in cinematographer-turned director Brandon Trost’s An American Pickle.

When he emerges perfectly preserved in present day Brooklyn, he is troubled to learn his only surviving relative is his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum (Rogen again), a mild-mannered computer coder whom Herschel can’t even begin to understand. That concept clearly didn’t register with moviegoers judging by the $144,000 debut on more than 150 locations.

Starring Aussies Geraldine Viswanathan and Dacre Montgomery, writer-director Natalie Krinsky’s The Broken Hearts Gallery wooed just $138,000 on 157 screens.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell believes the potential audience for the rom-com is still watching After We Collide so it may pick up as girls and young women go on holidays.

Directed by Régis Roinsard, The Translators stars Lambert Wilson as a supercilious publisher who goes to extreme lengths to protect the manuscript of a certain best seller and is aghast when the first 10 pages are leaked online. The Agatha Christie-like mystery co-starring Sidse Babett Knudsen, Olga Kurylenko and Riccardo Scamarcio rang up $88,000 on 17 screens and $219,000 including festivals.

Produced by the Steve Jaggi Company, Swimming for Gold stars American Peyton List (Disney Channel’s Jessie and Bunk’d) as Claire, an elite teenage swimmer who is sent to Australia to coach a boys’ swimming team after a jet ski accident left her with a fear of water.

Lauren Esposito plays Mikayla, Claire’s rival and sworn enemy, with Daniel Needs as the captain of the boys’ team who challenges Claire.

Released by Jaggi’s distribution company, the drama took $31,000 on 37 screens. The big upside will come from international markets, for which Universal bought the rights.

“The COID-19 related disruption is providing us with an opportunity to experiment and further position ourselves for a future where the producer must also be the distributor,” Jaggi tells IF.

“By cutting out the middleman, our box office participation is between double and triple what it would be through a traditional distribution model. With these sorts of titles, strong foreign sales often cover the initial production outlay.”

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