Cinemas take the slow road back to recovery

‘The Assistant.’

As more cinemas around Australia opened their doors, ticket sales improved last weekend from a low base as several art house titles led by Kitty Green’s The Assistant entered the market.

Exhibitors blame the lack of new mainstream releases rather than any discernible reticence to return to cinemas.

“Business is incredibly quiet, with no new films in the market,” says Geoff Chard, national programming manager at Village Cinemas, which re-opened eight complexes last week with another six to follow this Thursday and the remainder later in July.

Titanic, released 23 years ago, was number four for the weekend. That makes perfect sense as the films released in February and March are still the top films, albeit on very low grosses.”

At Cinema Nova, where The Assistant was the most popular title, ticket sales were spread fairly evenly among the retro releases. CEO Kristian Connelly says: “For many moviegoers it’s the return to the cinema that is the greatest draw rather than the film itself.”

Connelly was similarly pleased with the turnout for Madman Entertainment’s Monos, director Alejandro Landes’ survival drama set in the mountains of Colombia.

Released by Rialto, The Assistant, the #MeToo inspired drama starring Julia Garner, checked in with $12,000 on 10 screens and $19,000 including previews.

The top 20 films generated $685,000, up 77 per cent on the previous frame, according to Numero. Still in top spot, Universal Pictures’ The Invisible Man collected $65,000 from limited sessions on 67 screens 18 weeks after it launched, advancing to $8.3 million.

Among the Aussie films in the market, Madman Entertainment’s Hearts and Bones has grossed $38,000 after its fourth weekend, Bonsai Films’ In My Blood It Runs has $221,000 and R&R Films’ H is for Happiness $238,000.


The July line-up was looking highly promising until Warner Bros. shifted Chris Nolan’s Tenet to August 12 and the Walt Disney Co. moved Niki Caro’s Mulan to August 21 due to concerns over the pandemic in the US and some offshore markets including China.

The first major new release will be Studiocanal’s Unhinged, a psychological thriller starring Russell Crowe, which opens on 200+ screens on July 16.

Directed by American Dreamer’s Derrick Borte, the tale of a mother who leans on her horn at the wrong time to the wrong guy co-stars Caren Pistorius, Gabriel Bateman, Jimmi Simpson and Austin P. McKenzie.

Chard says: “With Mulan and Tenet moving to August, there are only a handful of films releasing in July. Hopefully Unhinged might spark some interest in audiences as essentially the first wide-release film to open post-closure. I haven’t seen it yet but it looks like it could be thrilling fun.”

However Connelly is bullish about the July releases including Roadshow’s The Personal History of David Copperfield and Universal’s Waves, Babyteeth and The King of Staten Island.