BO Report: ‘Winchester’ misfires and ‘The BBQ’ is under-cooked


Helen Mirren in ‘Winchester’ (Photo: Ben King).

Michael and Peter Spierig’s supernatural thriller Winchester and Stephen Amis’ comedy The BBQ clearly are aimed at different demographics, so that does not explain why neither cut through last weekend.

Some exhibitors say both suffered from going against the second weekend of the Disney/Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, which is taking business from other titles.

One executive surmises that Helen Mirren, who stars in Winchester, appeals primarily to an older audience who usually eschew genre movies. Generally lousy reviews for both films may have been another factor.

The Spierig brothers’ movie, which follows Mirren as the heir to the Winchester arms fortune who renovates her San Jose mansion to try to ward off evil spirits and to make amends for the victims of gun violence, entered at No. 8, fetching $409,000 at 206 locations including previews for StudioCanal.

That’s not a total shock given the listless performance of the film, which co-stars Jason Clarke, Sarah Snook, Angus Sampson and Eamon Farr, in the US, where it has taken $US23.8 million after its fourth weekend.

Co-distributed by Label and Madman Entertainment, The BBQ checked in at No. 11, cooking up $244,000 at 159 cinemas and $314,000 with previews. A bigger opening might have been expected given the enthusiastic reactions to Q&A screenings around the country hosted by Shane Jacobson and Amis.

Jacobson plays Barbecues Galore worker Darren ‘Dazza’ Cook, who sets out to redeem his reputation and win an international BBQ competition after his raw prawns accidentally cause the largest case of domestic food poisoning in Australia.

Magda Szubanski, Julia Zemiro and celebrity chef Manu Feildel co-star in the comedy written by Amis, David Richardson, Serge DeNardo, Angelo Salamanca and Tim Ferguson.

Moviegoers who were looking for laughs clearly preferred to see Game Night, a caper about a group of friends who meet regularly for game nights and find themselves trying to solve a murder mystery.

The Warner Bros. release co-directed by John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein, which stars Rachel McAdams, Jason Bateman and Kyle Chandler, whistled up $1.9 million at 240 cinemas. Pro-rata, that is better the US opening of $US16.6 million.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close described the debuts of Winchester and The BBQ as disappointing, particularly the former given the recent resurgence of horrors/thrillers.

Close expected a better result for Amis’ film given the torrent of publicity it generated. She observes: “Game Night is a pleasant surprise and seems to have been the preferred choice for audiences looking for a comedy.”

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell said: “Winchester is difficult to find a market for; it is essentially a horror movie in a period costume with the big name of Hellen Mirren. She appeals to an older audience primarily who are not the market for horror pics, which is not a strong genre in Australia at the best of times.

The BBQ might yet find an audience among some Australians but it is not going to shoot the lights out. Australians like Shane (although he is in danger of over-exposure this year), they like light comedy, but they can also be quite discerning and the reviews have been pretty bad.”

The top 20 titles raked in $17.5 million last weekend, down 7 per cent on the prior weekend according to Numero.

Director Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther hauled in $7.5 million, slipping by just 29 per cent, which brings the total to $22.1 million.

In the US the superhero movie scored an estimated $108 million, the second highest second weekend tally of all time, behind only Star Wars: Force Awakens. The worldwide total reached $704 million, including $400 million in the US.

Universal’s Fifty Shade Freed ascended to $12.7 million after banking $1.1 million in its third frame, plunging by 51 per cent.

EOne launched Richard Loncraine’s UK romantic comedy-drama Finding Your Feet, which stars Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton and Joanna Lumley, generating a fair $1 million and nearly $1.1 million with previews.

Fox’s The Greatest Showman continues to defy BO gravity, boosted last weekend by the singalong screenings, drumming up $988,000 in its ninth stanza to reach $30.7 million. The musical drama directed by Aussie Michael Gracey has pocketed a lucrative $160.7 million in the US and $200.5 million in the rest of the world.

First-time director-writer Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird fetched a decent $645,000 in its second weekend, off by 32 per cent, collecting $2.6 million so far.

Aussie director Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya skated along to $7.7 million after bringing in $420,000 in its fifth outing for Roadshow.

Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri topped $10 million after making $346,000 in its eighth sojourn for Fox. That is a stand-out figure considering the US tally of $50.1 million and $71 million for the rest of the world.

Released by Madman, Operation Red Sea, a Chinese-Hong Kong action film directed by Dante Lam, which chronicles the evacuation of foreign nationals and Chinese citizens from the port of Aden during the 2015 Yemeni Civil War, captured a terrific $264,000 at just 19 screens.

The latest premium VOD release, Paul Currie’s romantic thriller 2.22 opened at just three screens at Dendy Cinemas, taking $2,800, and will be available to rent for $19.95 on Dendy Direct from February 28.