French audiences, exhibitors embrace The Babadook

Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook has made more money in its first five days in France than in its entire Australian season on limited screens.

The reactions from French exhibitors after Wild Bunch arranged a week of Q&A screenings hosted by the writer-director emboldened the Gallic distributor to launch the psychological thriller on 148 screens last Wednesday.

That tactic paid off as the film, retitled Mr Babadook, sold nearly 80,000 tickets, which according to Box Office Mojo equates to a gross of $US513,000.

It ranks at number 11, posting a solid per-screen average that is not far below that of fellow opener Begin Again, John Carney’s New York-set musical drama starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine, which rang up $US798,000 on 194 screens.

“We are delighted with the critical response in France and Wild Bunch has done an amazing job promoting the film,” Kristian Moliere, who produced the film with Kristina Ceyton, told IF.

Wild Bunch originally intended to open Mr Babadook on about 100 screens but decided to go much wider after getting enthusiastic feedback from exhibitors.

Moliere contrasts that response with the attitude of Australia’s major chains, which declined to book the film into multiplexes. Umbrella released the thriller on 13 screens last May and through Sunday it has earned $251,000.

“The film continues to perform well at festivals, winning best actress for Essie Davis at PiFan (Korea’s Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival) last month, and it’s been selected for FrightFest in the UK, Sitges and Fantastic Fest in Texas,” Moliere said.

The next major territory release is the UK on October 24 followed by the US in late November, where IFC Midnight will open the film on Premium VoD and day-and-date in cinemas in around 10 cities.

Wild Bunch also has the rights in Germany but there is no date yet.