Feel-good Australian film The Sapphires has made an impressive debut at the local box office, opening with $2.34 million.

It is the biggest opening weekend by an Australian film this year and even ranks slightly ahead of Happy Feet Two's $2.21 million last December. That film had a far larger budget and screen count, although its performance ultimately proved disappointing for distributor Roadshow.

The Sapphires, set during the Vietnam War when four talented singers from an Aboriginal mission in Victoria were discovered by an unlikely talent scout, was shown across 279 screens, giving it a strong screen average of $8387. Including previews, the film has grossed almost $2.6 million in total. It was the second biggest film over the weekend behind The Dark Knight Rises, which grossed $2.74 million across 501 screens in its fourth weekend.

The Sapphires' opening weekend box office performance is just below Hopscotch's biggest ever local hit, 2009 drama Mao's Last Dancer (which was co-distributed with Roadshow). That film, based on the popular autobiography of dancer Li Cunxin, grossed $2.75 million in its opening weekend across 266 screens.

The Sapphires has been supported by a strong outdoor and TV marketing campaign. However its second weekend at cinemas will prove a strong indicator as to whether positive word-of-mouth can propel it to the $7-$10 million box office range. Mao's Last Dancer quickly became an audience favourite and performed strongly for several weeks, grossing just under $15 million in total.

Australian documentary Storm Surfers 3D: The Movie opens on Tuesday, August 14, in limited release.

Contact this reporter at bswift@www.if.com.au or on Twitter at @bcswift.

Australian films at the box office 2012

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  1. In regard to the critics, I have always said there is only one critic I am interested in and that is my own opinion of a film! Go the Sapphires and all Aussie films!

  2. Thanks, I have corrected that now. I originally had the opening week box office figure for Happy Feet Two rather than the weekend, and so ranked it slightly behind The Sapphires.

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