'The Witches'.

For the first time since cinemas reopened, two titles have earned more than $1 million in a single weekend, with The Witches bowing and The War With Grandpa continuing to climb.

It’s a positive sign for exhibitors in the lead up to the school holidays and the end of year, with titles The Croods: A New Age, Wonder Woman 1984 and The Dry all on the horizon.

Robert Zemeckis’ Roald Dahl adaptation, starring Anne Hathaway and Octavia Spencer, ranked no. 1, opening on $1.13 million from 396 screens (or $1.6 million with previews) for Warner Bros.

While some exhibitors are dismayed by the film’s M-rating, arguing it limits how accessible it is for families, it is still the best opening weekend for any film since Christopher Nolan’s Tenet on August 27.

It’s also equivalent with The Addams Family, a WB title released this time last year, in a pre-COVID world.

Village Cinemas’ Geoff Chard is pleased with the result, noting: “It’s a solid start for a family title that will hopefully play well all through Christmas and into the New Year.”

Just behind The Witches was Robert De Niro-starrer The War With Grandpa on $1.07 million. That’s a higher result than its opening last week, suggesting that despite being panned by critics, the comedy is enjoying word-of-mouth. Overall, the film has amassed $2.5 million for Universal Pictures.

For Majestic Cinemas, Grandpa was easily the top title, earning more on its second weekend than the first, and proving twice as popular as The Witches.

“Those two films were our mainstays the last week and we look forward to them being bolstered by Croods and The Dry previews next weekend as well as Superintelligence, and then of course Wonder Woman 1984 on Boxing Day,” said CEO Kieren Dell.

Similarly, Chard says: “We have paid previews coming up this weekend of both The Croods: A New Age and The Dry, so we’re expecting much bigger things than this weekend.”

Victorian cinemas returned to 75 per cent capacity last Monday, though good weather potentially kept some cinemagoers away over the weekend.

However, Cinema Nova CEO Kristian Connelly reports there has been a general uptick in trade as audience confidence returns.

“This past weekend saw strong attendances at advance screenings of December/January releases The Dry and Promising Young Woman while business for Tenet, Babyteeth and Kajillionaire held steady,” he tells IF.

“The coming weekend brings advance screenings of several Boxing Day and New Years Day titles, as well as outstanding music documentary Crock Of Gold. Christmas parties, muted shopping and glorious weather won’t help trade, but once audiences find themselves with time on their hands come December 26, we should all enjoy a resurgence in movie going.”

‘The Furnace’.

Among the weekend’s local fare was Roderick MacKay’s The Furnace, released via Umbrella on 111 screens, reaching $79,610.

The film bowed in Venice Film Festival’s Horizons section in September, where it was hailed as “weighty, surprising and beautifully made” and “handsomely mounted” in the international trades.

It follows Ahmed Malek as a young Afghan cameleer who partners with Mal, a mysterious bushman (David Wenham) on the run with two Crown-marked gold bars.

Together the unlikely pair must outwit a zealous police sergeant and his troopers in a race to reach a secret furnace – the one place where they can safely reset the bars to remove the mark of the Crown.

The period drama found a home in South Australia’s Wallis Cinemas, where programming manager David Simpson reports it did “first rate.”

He tells IF: “The Furnace is extraordinary, and should be seen by every single person in this country.”

Carlton’s Cinema Nova was the leading site in Victoria for the film, though CEO Kristian Connelly laments its opening was “not as bullish as had been hoped.”

The only other notable new release was Sony’s romantic drama Words on Bathroom Walls, which opened on just $172,746 from 241 screens. Directed by Thor Freudenthal, it stars Charlie Plummer as a student diagnosed with schizophrenia in his final year of high school.

Overall the top 20 titles clocked $4 million, up 7 per cent on the previous, according to Numero.

Trailing well behind Witches and The War With Grandpa in third was Happiest Season, which earned $300,461 in its third frame. Starring Kristen Stewart and Mackenzie Davis, the queer Christmas rom-com has earned $1.6 million so far for Sony.

Despite being some 16 weeks in release, Tenet continues to have legs, notching $268,927. The Christopher Nolan film has now crossed the $15 million mark in Australia, now the 10th best performing market.

Similarly, Jeremy Sims’ comedy drama Rams continues to draw a crowd for Roadshow, collecting $115,278 in its seventh frame to advance to $4.2 million. The film is easily the best performing local title in the COVID-era.

Rialto’s Honest Thief is leggy too, adding $102,216 to reach $3.5 million in its eighth weekend.

Universal’s Trolls World Tour, which has had a second life thanks to Victorian cinemagoers, rung up $102,202, with a gross to date of $8.7 million.

Let Him Go has failed to find the audience some thought it would, dropping 51 per cent in its third frame to earn just $99,242. The Kevin Costner and Diane Lane-starrer has made $833,720 in total for Universal.

Rounding out the top 10 was body swap horror Freaky, which made $90,851 in its fifth orbit. Overall, it’s made $1.8 million for Universal/Blumhouse.

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