Kya (Daisy Edgar-Jones) in Sony/Columbia Pictures' 'Where the Crawdads Sing'. (Photo: Michele K Short, © 2022 CTMG, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

With six quite different films each earning more than $1 million at the box office last weekend, there are promising signs that audiences of all types are making their way back to cinemas.

The weekend’s biggest new release was Sony’s Where the Crawdads Sing. The drama debuted in the no. 2 spot, behind Thor: Love and Thunder, to a tune of $2.5 million from 485 screens; an average $5,181 per session. With previews, the tally increases to $3.1 million.

Pro-rata, the Australian opening for the Reese Witherspoon-produced film is ahead of the US/Canada, where it bowed last weekend to $US17 million.

Based on the best-selling novel by Delia Owens and directed by Olivia Newman, Where the Crawdads Sing has been plagued by poor reviews – it sports just a 34 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes – but exhibitors report positive audience reception, particularly among its target demo of older women.

Universal horror The Black Phone, directed by Scott Derrickson, had a respectable opening with $1.4 million from 300 screens, landing it in sixth behind Minions: The Rise of Gru, Top Gun: Maverick and Elvis. With previews, it stands at $2.1 million.

Australia received the Blumhouse title, headlined by Ethan Hawke as a child kidnapper and serial killer, a month behind that of North America, where it opened June 24. So far, it has grossed $US130 million worldwide.

The Grabber (Ethan Hawke) and Finney Shaw (Mason Thames) in ‘The Black Phone’. (Photo: © 2022 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.)

Looking to the success of top six, Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell tells IF it is nice to see a spread of audiences across a range of genres and session times, including for Thor and Minions.

“[It] does indicate a maturity in the marketplace and a return to more normal patterns of attendance, albeit the inflation and other economic challenges and a lack of major product for the next six weeks or so will test that, as we risk losing much of the momentum we have built up over the last couple of months,” he says.

In terms of the other new releases, Sharmill had success with the event cinema screenings of the UK National Theatre’s Prima Facie, starring Jodie Comer in her West End debut. It came in at ninth position, after amassing $169,213 from just 38 screens, which on screen average – $4,453 per session – puts it essentially on par with Elvis. For exhibitors such as the Sydney’s Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, it proved the weekend’s number one title.

As well as Comer’s widely hailed performance, no doubt Prima Facie struck a chord in part as the play was written by Australian Suzie Miller and originally performed at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre. Miller, an ex-criminal lawyer, wrote the play out of frustration with the Australian judicial systems’ treatment of sexual assault cases; it has been adapted to the British system for the West End version. Miller is writing a film adaptation.

Bollywood films also continue to resonate locally, with Mindblowing Films’ period actioner Shamshera, starring Ranbir Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt, coming in behind in tenth with $163,915 from 81 screens.

Overall, Numero puts the top 20 films at $13.8 million, down 24 per cent on the previous weekend.

Of the holdovers, Disney’s Thor: Love and Thunder continued to dominate, coming in at no. 1 for the third weekend running with another $3.6 million. Its pot for Disney now stands at $37.1 million.

Uni’s Minions: The Rise of Gru fell 55 per cent as school holidays wrapped up across the country, earning $1.7 million in its third to $39.1 million.

Exhibitors are enthused by the continued pulling power of both Top Gun: Maverick, now nine weeks in, and Elvis, five weeks in, which fell just 25 per cent and 26 per cent respectively.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager David Simpson says the solid showings speak to the quality of both, while Dell adds that he expects the two films to still have “a few weeks of juice in them to be squeezed” particularly among older crowds who may have avoided cinemas during crowded school holidays.

Top Gun: Maverick now stands at a whopping $83.6 million for Paramount, with the weekend’s tally $1.6 million. Assumedly by next weekend it will overtake Avengers: End Game, which made $84.2 million, to become the third highest grossing film ever released in Australia.

Luhrmann’s Elvis has now reached $27 million total for Warner Bros, a result that makes it as the eighth highest grossing Australian film of all time (not adjusting for inflation), and just shy of the director’s other works The Great Gatsby ($27.4 million) and Moulin Rouge! ($27.7 million). The film’s global tally has now reached $US210.2 million.

After seven frames, Jurassic World Dominion stands at $35.2 million for Universal, having added another $304,839 across the weekend, while Disney’s Lightyear is on $10.7 million after adding $242,018 through its sixth orbit.

Just shy of the top 10 was UK/Australian co-production, Ben Lewin’s Falling for Figaro, which dipped 34 per cent in its sophomore weekend to $133,034. It stands at $544,925 for Paramount/Umbrella.

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