‘Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy.’

Jimmy Barnes fans turned out for Mark Joffe’s Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy, which opened wide but on limited sessions in a slow weekend at Australian cinemas.

Meanwhile Jason Perini’s Chasing Comets and Jason Raftopoulos’ West of Sunshine demonstrated the difficulty facing Aussie films which are released with minimal marketing campaigns.

Takings for the top 20 titles dropped by 15 per cent to $10 million, according to Numero, as Book Club launched respectably and Slender Man and The Happytime Murders mirrored their dismal US performances.

Given the paucity of competition, Warner Bros’ shark thriller The Meg easily retained the top spot despite falling by 38 per cent to $2.1 million in its second weekend. Jon Turteltaub’s film starring Jason Statham, Li Bingbing, Rainn Wilson, Ruby Rose, Winston Chao, Page Kennedy and Jessica McNamee has earned $6.58 million.

The WB /Chinese co-production is a monster hit in China, devouring $143 million in three weeks. The international haul of $303.3 million dwarfs the $105.3 million domestic total.

Book Club stars Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton and Mary Steenburgen as possibly the only four women in America who are shocked by the Fifty Shades of Grey novel.

Maybe audiences were attracted more by the cast, including Andy Garcia and Don Johnson, than the premise, judging by the $1.27 million opening and $1.63 million with previews for Transmission Films.

That is roughly in line with the $13.5 million US opening last May for the rom-com from first-time director Bill Holderman, where the film finished up with $68.5 million.

Paramount Pictures/Skydance’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout advanced to $16.7 million after making $1.18 million in its fourth frame. The action adventure has nabbed $193.9 million in the US and $334.8 million in the rest of the world, tracking 17 per cent ahead of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

French director Sylvain White’s horror movie Slender Man fetched just $11.3 million in its US debut and has crawled along to $25.4 million. So the Australian opening of $792,000 on 165 screens and $876,000 including previews for the Sony title is no shocker.

Spike Lee’s political satire BlacKkKlansman collected $708,000 in its second weekend, down 32 per cent, scoring $2.24 million for Universal. That’s a decent result compared with the US total of $32 million in 17 days.

The Happytime Murders is the first film from the Jim Henson Company’s newly launched Henson Alternative shingle, whose mission is to produce adult-themed content. The conceit of a crude comedy set in Los Angeles where humans coexist uneasily with innocent-looking yet depraved puppets who swear, smoke, bonk and explode into geysers of fluff clearly was too bizarre for moviegoers.

Directed by Brian Henson and starring Melissa McCarthy, the film scraped up $10 million on 3,256 screens in the US and $677,000 on 241 screens here.

Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again reached $21.46 million after whistling up $604,000 in its sixth frame. Pro-rata, that has eclipsed the US total of $115.3 million; the worldwide haul is a lucrative $345.2 million.

Produced by CJZ and distributed by Universal, Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Boy rang up $439,000 on 221 screens – the widest release ever for an Australian feature documentary – and $469,000 with previews. The film played five sessions at most locations as an alternate content release; exhibitors have the option of extending the run.

Director Susanna Fogel’s action comedy The Spy Who Dumped Me took $298,000 in its third weekend, generating a mediocre $3.3 million for Roadshow.

After a lousy opening weekend Fox’s thriller The Darkest Minds plunged by 54 per cent to $262,000, pocketing $1 million.

Loosely based on the life of writer, producer, and former footballer Jason Stevens and starring Dan Ewing, Rhys Muldoon, Stan Walker, John Batchelor, George Houvardas, Peter Phelps and Kat Hoyos, Chasing Comets grossed just $28,000 on 70 screens and $33,000 with previews for Resplendent Pictures.

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell noted that football grand finals in regional areas impacted ticket sales for Chasing Comets, adding: “We have had successful Q&As but it is very hard to get good results for independent Australian movies but we will keep supporting them.”

The reviews have been positive for West of Sunshine, which stars Damon Hill as a working-class Melbourne man who is forced to care for his son (Tyler Perham, Hill’s real-life stepson) while he has less than a day to repay a $15,000 debt to a vicious loan shark, since its premieres at Venice and MIFF.

But that acclaim wasn’t reflected in the $15,000 opening weekend on 29 screens and $18,000 with previews (excluding MIFF) for the Exile Entertainment release.

West of Sunshine and Matthew Newton’s documentaries Lowest to Highest and Doing it Scared kicked off Wallis Cinemas’ Discover initiative to support Australian films.

Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close said the results were soft but declared: “We are looking at this program from an audience development and industry support perspective and are definitely focused with building this program over time.”

Released by Madman Entertainment, Mamoru Hosoda’s animated adventure Mirai drew a modest $67,000 on 47 screens, restricted to weekend sessions at 10 locations, and $97,000 with festival screenings.

After premiering at MIFF Sony launched Debra Granik’s drama Leave No Trace, which stars Ben Foster and Kiwi Thomasin Mackenzie as a father and daughter who live deep in the forests of Oregon but are forced to return to society, on two screens, earning $11,000.

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