Mixed openings for Oz films after SFF premieres

After premiering at the Sydney Film Festival, garnering copious publicity and generally positive reviews, Ruben Guthrie and Women He’s Undressed launched in a limited number of  cinemas last weekend .

Both performed well in some locations although, overall, the per screen averages were fairly modest.

Ruben Guthrie, the directorial debut of Brendan Cowell adapted from his critically acclaimed Belvoir St play starring Patrick Brammall, Alex Dimitriades, Abbey Lee, Harriet Dyer, Jeremy Sims, Brenton Thwaites, Aaron Bertram, Robyn Nevin and Jack Thompson, fetched an estimated $120,000 on 33 screens. That brings the total including previews and the SFF premiere to $215,000.

Gilliam Armstrong’s Women He’s Undressed, a bio of Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly, who won three Oscars, collected $56,000 on 20 screens and $67,000 with previews including the re-opening of Melbourne’s Astor Theatre. With earlier sneaks the total is $108,000.

Madman Entertainment is distributing Ruben Guthrie, the tale of party-boy ad man who has a near death experience, prompting his fiancée to give him one last chance if he can abstain from booze for a year.

Madman’s Paul Wiegard is encouraged to see the top five locations spanned four States: the Luna Leederville in Perth, Dendy Newtown, Melbourne’s Cinema Nova, Event Cinemas Bondi Junction and the State Cinema in Hobart.

“Some sites are very healthy and we expect the film to sustain a good long life,” he tells IF. “You know that there are some sites that don’t work, a black hole of non-activity, particularly for Australian films.

“Clearly there was a weighting towards art houses but the figures at some multiplexes were fairly good. We put together a publicity-driven campaign and felt we reached a tipping point of awareness last week. The press and the participation of key cast and crew were excellent. With a release of about 30 screens you are never going to see real blue sky numbers.”

Rialto is distributing Women He’s Undressed. General manager Mike Vile says, “We were hoping for a bit more, around $70,000. But as word of mouth kicks in we expect good mid-week business and it should have strong legs.”

Wallis Cinemas program manager Bob Parr was optimistic about Armstrong’s documentary, telling IF, “We were sure that it would find an audience because of its fascinating subject. In our case we were still in kids’ holidays, which does slow down the older generation coming because they don’t like the noise associated with kids. We will hang in with day sessions hoping they will come.”

Cinema Nova’s joint managing partner Natalie Miller says both films got great publicity and mostly good reviews although The Age wasn’t so positive about Ruben Guthrie.

“I think Woman Undressed will have a longer life,” she tells IF. “Word of mouth will carry it. With Guthrie I thought it would have great appeal in Sydney but who knows? It’s hard to judge what the people want. I think we need to wait for the second week to see which way both films are going to go.”