‘Ladies in Black.’
As momentum builds for the September 20 launch of Bruce Beresford’s Ladies in Black, the distributor and exhibitors are increasingly confident of a sizable opening weekend and a long run sustained by word-of-mouth and repeat business.
Sony Pictures Releasing will launch the 1959-set comedy-drama starring Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor, Ryan Corr, Alison McGirr, Noni Hazlehurst and Vincent Perez on 300 screens.
No one will be watching the opening weekend and the ensuing business more closely than the team at Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions, which snapped up global distribution rights last year.
“We aim to establish the film as a major success, which will make the rest of the world sit up and take notice,” Sony Releasing MD Stephen Basil-Jones tells IF.
A Q&A screening with Beresford at the Hayden Orpheum on Tuesday night and a preview at the Randwick Ritz on Wednesday night are sold out. The film is showing as a Girls’ Night Out event at Wallis Cinemas in Adelaide on Wednesday, with ticket sales tracking on par with The Dressmaker and most recently Book Club.
Produced by Allanah Zitserman and Sue Milliken, the film which also features Susie Porter, Shane Jacobson and Nicholas Hammond, will open day-and-date in New Zealand. Australian films often struggle across the Tasman but Basil-Jones says Kiwi exhibitors are being very supportive.
Adapted by Beresford and Milliken from the late Madeleine St John’s 1993 novel ‘The Women in Black’, the plot follows Rice as a suburban schoolgirl, who, while waiting for her final high school exam results, takes a summer job at a large department store. There, a group of saleswomen open her eyes to a world beyond her sheltered existence.
Australian exhibitors saw the film at the Australian International Movie Convention and have been buzzing ever since. “The film plays to women of all ages and is truly delightful,” says Wallis Cinemas programming manager Sasha Close. “We have high expectations for the season. I’m still predicting a box office above $10 million but I truly hope it smashes that prediction.”
Another programmer expects a lifetime total of $15 million-plus.
Cinema Nova general manager Kristian Connelly tells IF: “Ladies In Black delivers a feel-good, approachable experience to a demographic of moviegoers who have been under-serviced by local content for some time. The film’s message is timely in that it highlights the enormous contribution that migrants have made to Australian culture over the last century just as politicians question the value of multiculturalism in a bid for votes.
“Beresford’s film gently reminds Australians of a time before the arrival of our now-cherished food and wine culture, when career opportunities for women were extremely limited and when inter-racial couples were rare.”
Connelly praises Sony’s substantial marketing and publicity campaign and is collaborating with the distributor to create multiple events including a Beresford Q&A on Thursday, a gala fashion night on Friday and a ‘nostalgia matinee’ on opening day introduced by historian Robyn Annear. “These events have all proven very popular and we expect to be screening Ladies In Black for months to come,” he added.
Majestic Cinemas CEO Kieren Dell is sure it will appeal to a broad audience including teenagers who will identify with Rice’s character and folks in their 20s and 30s who will relate to the other characters of similar ages.
As Milliken observes, it is often difficult for Australian films to connect with audiences internationally. But she hopes Ladies in Black’s inherent charm and the internationally-known cast including Ormond, Perez, Corr and rising star Rice will resonate.