Box Office: Babyteeth cruises, Slim Dusty croons, and The Eight Hundred rules

After all the COVID horrors, China turns out to have the most productive market for big screen movies.

There are three Australian films on the list this weekend. Swimming for Gold, from Steve Jaggi for a teen audience, was on 56 screens in week one, to make $31,000 at $458/per. The spring holidays are coming and Athabasca Films will want it to hold on that long. 

Slim and I has made $217,000 in two weeks, which is not bad but not its potential number. 114 screens which is a lot for a doc, at $560/screen. 

Read more: Slim and I spotlights country music’s unsung legend

Babyteeth is on $332,000 after nine weeks, which is depressing, but it has fantastic persistence. 13 screens at $815/per, and down only 1% on last week. This one still has legs because the inner city Melbourne market is squashed by a curfew. 

Read more: Babyteeth is a complex portrait of youth

While Tenet struggles in its home market, it has taken almost $9m in four weeks in Australia. Inception, also from Christopher Nolan, made that in its first weekend. 

Tenet lost 200 screens in a week, down from 400 and the screen average is $2052. That is not hot stuff. 

The highest screen average in Australia belongs to The Translators, which Palace has put out on 17 screens at $5158/screen and $220,000 in the box office. A French film, described on IMDB as 

Nine translators, hired to translate the eagerly awaited final book of a bestselling trilogy, are confined in a luxurious bunker. When the first ten pages of the top-secret manuscript appear online, the dream job becomes a nightmare.

It is a thriller. With books. And cruel owners. What more can an arthouse audience  want? (The first English language set of notes on the script would ask ‘why nine characters? Four would give the audience chance to bond….’)

After We Collided has dropped badly in its second week but still scored almost $2m and is holding $3056/per on 174 screens. In fact the drop of 42% is close to both Bill and Ted Face the Music, now on $670,000, and Disney’s The New Mutants, down 43% in week three with just over $1m in the kitty. 

For a few weeks there has been little drop-off each week, which makes sense since the actual audience numbers for these mainstream pictures are depressed by COVID. It looks as if that spell has been broken and the losses are now more normal. 

One of the most interesting films we have tracked week by week is The Eight Hundred. It has been out for four weeks, has dropped to 18 screens, is on $897/screen and has taken $333,000. It is a Chinese film, basically intended in Australia for the Diaspora, and is doing poorly.

The world figures are probably not completely current. The film has made around $530m, and is the highest grossing film on the planet this year, just pipping Bad Boys for Life which came out before the pandemic. $400m of that comes from China itself. 

Mulan has made around $40m in China, which is a brutally low figure compared to The Eight Hundred.

The total box office in the top 20 for the last weekend dropped by 13% and now sits at $3.6m, sustained by Tenet.

David Tiley was the Editor of Screenhub from 2005 until he became Content Lead for Film in 2021 with a special interest in policy. He is a writer in screen media with a long career in educational programs, documentary, and government funding, with a side order in script editing. He values curiosity, humour and objectivity in support of Australian visions and the art of storytelling.