‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.’

Cinemas in Australia are enjoying terrific holiday season business with a wide array of films appealing to audiences across the age spectrum.

However the cumulative grosses for the top 20 titles are down 4 per cent on 2016, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia, and some exhibitors blame widespread ticket discounting for stagnating admissions.

“Overall, the balance of genres is good and there is something for everyone,” Wallis Cinemas consultant Bob Parr tells IF.

“The sad thing in my view is that the cheap prices have not achieved a growth in attendance. I am hoping common sense prevails and pricing goes back to a sensible level.”

Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell is pleased with trading but laments the absence of a Sing or Moana (which did blockbuster business a year ago) in the children’s/family genre.

Dell observes older audiences have not been well catered for although Fox’s The Greatest Showman is drawing plenty of mature folks. Universal’s Darkest Hour and eOne’s The Post, which both launch on January 11, may well rectify that.

The stand-out hit of the holiday season, Sony’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle has far surpassed exhibitors’ expectations, out-grossing Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi since its Boxing Day debut.

The fantasy reboot directed by Jake Kasdan, which stars Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black and Kevin Hart as characters that are transported into a video game world, has raked in $29.8 million in Oz and a phenomenal $US525 million globally.

“It’s the surprise hit of the summer, breaking out and becoming a four-quadrant blockbuster,” says Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly. “The enormous success of Jumanji, which plays both young and old, undoubtedly hurt the potential of Coco, Paddington 2, Ferdinand and, quite possibly, Star Wars.”

Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi has scored $52.2 million, rated by Parr as “excellent and about what we hoped for.” Australia is the fifth-highest grossing market outside the US, behind the UK, France, Germany and Japan, for the blockbuster which has amassed $1.215 billion worldwide.

Perhaps surprisingly, Fox’s Ferdinand has been first choice for kids/families, pocketing $9.9 million, well ahead of Disney/Pixar’s Coco ($6.6 million) and Studiocanal’s Paddington 2 ($6.2 million), according to Numero. Dell observes, “Paddington 2 is a mystery as it is a better movie than the original and a really great G-rated family film.”

Exhibitors theorise that the $192.4 million US haul for co-directors Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina’s Coco was derived chiefly from Latino audiences and they noted the underlying theme of Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday is not well known here. Connelly suggests Disney may want to rethink its decision to delay the local release rather than going out closer to the November 22 US debut.

Hugh Jackman fans are flocking to Aussie first-time director Michael Gracey’s exuberant musical The Greatest Showman which has whistled up $13.5 million, pro-rata out-performing the US tally of $78.2 million. Parr says he is determined to help the film reach $20 million.

Director Trish Sie’s musical comedy Pitch Perfect 3, which opened on New Year’s Day, has drummed up a dandy $12.2 million for Universal, including previews.

Rave reviews and copious Oscar attention are paying off for Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which rustled up $2.4 million in nine days on 84 screens for Fox.

It’s unknown whether Ridley Scott’s decision to can all Kevin Spacey’s scenes and re-shoot with Christopher Plummer has made a discernible difference to the BO results for All the Money in the World. The thriller based on the 1973 kidnapping of John Paul Getty III took a mediocre $1.9 million in six days on 223 screens for Roadshow and $20.4 million since its Christmas Day debut in the US.

Released by Paramount, Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is struggling, earning $2.8 million since Boxing Day, in line with its soft $23.1 million domestic result. “No surprises with Downsizing – audiences generally have been enjoying it but it was hard to categorise for people,” Dell says.

Among the other upscale titles which opened on Boxing Day, Italian/Algerian director Luca Guadagnino’s coming-of-age romantic drama Call Me By Your Name, which stars Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer, has rung up a creditable $988,000 on 36 screens for Sony.

French director Carine Tardieu’s Just to Be Sure, a romantic comedy starring Francois Damiens, Cecile de France, Guy Marchand, Andre Wilms and Alice de Lencquesaing, has fetched a rousing $1 million on 26 screens for Palace.

However Breathe, a terrific drama featuring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy, based on the true story of a polio-stricken Brit who regained his desire to live, directed by Andy Serkis, has earned just $583,000 from 75 screens for Transmission.

Despite the plethora of new titles, Connelly says the holdover business for Roadshow’s Wonder ($11.8 million) and The Disaster Artist ($2.2 million) and Fox’s Murder on the Orient Express ($16 million) has been impressive at Cinema Nova through the summer.

Dell concludes: “Yes, it has been a good couple of weeks but it will be a harder slog to the end of January without Lion this year.”

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  1. Couldn’t possibly be stagnating wage growth to blame for lower attendance. Raising ticket prices will clearly help.

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