The gamble of launching The Railway Man in the ultra-competitive Boxing Day slot has paid off for the producers and distributor Transmission Films.

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, the drama starring Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, Jeremy Irvine, Tanroh Ishida and Hiroyuki Sanada rang up $1.186 million in four days on 114 screens. Inclluding a handful of paid previews, the total is $1.22 million.

That's the second biggest debut for an Australian film this year behind Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby,  which took $6.8 million.

“We're delighted, particularly to see it play equally well across art houses and multiplexes,” Transmission’s Andrew Mackie tells IF. “It has exceeded expectations in a highly competitive market.”

The film is based a memoir by Eric Lomax, who, as a prisoner-of-war was forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during WW2. Years later he confronted the Japanese soldier/translator who tormented him.

The Australia/UK co-production was due to open on October 24 but Transmission opted for Boxing Day, pitting the film against The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Ben Stiller’s comedy/drama The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Stephen Frears’ Philomena.

“I am absolutely delighted with the performance of the film,” says Pictures in Paradise’s Chris Brown, who produced the film with Andy Paterson (who co-wrote the screenplay with Frank Cottrell Boyce) and Bill Curbishley.

“From the previews we did around the country at Palace Cinemas with Jonathan, I was confident there is a large audience out there for the movie. Transmission did a great campaign.”

Brown says Teplitzky has been “showered with offers” since the film premiered in September at the Toronto International Film Festival, where The Weinstein Co. bought the US rights for a reported $US2 million.

A US launch date is yet to be announced. Harvey Weinstein “adores” the film and “we know it will get very good theatres,” Brown added. It opens in the UK via Lionsgate on January 10.

Brown isn’t sure what Teplitzky will do next but he plans to collaborate with the director again on Mr Cranky, a black comedy in the vein of their 2003 film Gettin’ Square. He hopes to start shooting next September.

Those who enjoy watching Firth and Kidman in The Railway Man can look forward to seeing them in Before I Go To Sleep, a thriller that Studiocanal will release next year. Kidman plays a woman who wakes up every day with no memory, the legacy of a traumatic accident.

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