This week in Australian cinema

This week in film in Australia is all about four words:  Harry Potter and school holidays.  Since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Price opened in Australia on Wednesday July 15th up through Monday July 20th it had grossed $18,705,212 at the box office on 510 screens.  Its opening day was $4.37 million, making it the third biggest opening day (NOT inflation-adjusted!) of all time in Australia. Roadshow Distributors reports the following top five Australian opening days:

1. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King $5.29m

2. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $5.23m

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $4.37m

4. Matrix Reloaded $4.17m

5. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring $4.12m

Put it this way:  of every two dollar spent at the Australian cinemas in the last week, more than one dollar of it went to Harry Potter.  We Australians love it almost as much as the British do, and more than the Americans:  although it was popular in North America, the equivalent five-day US & Canada figure was US$158 million. Applying to the so-called “ten percent rule” (i.e. North American box office divided by 10 = Australian box office), it was more about ten percent more popular here: equivalent popularity would have predicted $15.8 million, and not $18 million.  The other interesting thing is the audience:  in the USA, distributor Warner Brothers has run exit polling that has indicated that 60 percent of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’s audience was 18 years of age and older and 57 percent was female. This is not exactly a kids film.

Also at the Australian box office, Ice Age 3 is hanging in at second place and Bruno in third place (down 65% on its first week, meaning it will probably drop reasonably fast).

Opening this week in Australian cinemas:

Drag Me to Hell, Sam Raimi-directed horror movie which critics are raving about – if you like this sort of thing. I have seen the trailer twice and have bad dreams from that alone.  Alison Lohman plays a bank officer who rejects a loan application from a “Mrs Ganush”, with disastrous results when she is cursed.

Cheri, based on two novels by Colette, directed by Stephen Frears (one of my favourite directors – The Queen, High Fidelity) collaborating with Christopher Hampton (screenplay), the first time they have worked together since Dangerous Liaisons in 1988. Michelle Pfeiffer – at age 50 – stars as a retired courtesan who has a affair with “Cheri” (Rupert Friend), who is the son of her colleague Charlotte (Kathy Bates). Pfeiffer is reportedly captivating.

Limits of Control by master of vague Jim Jarmusch, all filmed in Spain. Despite a strong cast (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal), it wanders.  Not for me this time.

Red Cliff, the film of the week for me: by Hong Kong director John Woo (Face Off, Mission Impossible II), filmed in China and centred on the 208 (CE) Battle of Red Cliff, and starring Tony Leung (Lust, Caution and In the Mood for Love).

Box office sources: 

Box Office Mojo http://www.boxofficemojo.com/news/?id=2606&p=.htm 

Urban Cinefile http://www.urbancinefile.com.au/home/boxoffice.asp 

Roadshow Films media release 16 July 2009.

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