Box Office: Malignant brings Australian edge to world figures

James Wan's Malignant does well while Nitram is ignored and Lamb bleats from a back paddock.
frightened woman

Australia is having a genre success! Truly ruley, with a film that cost around $55m to make and has nearly matched that figure in box office, which means it has a long way to go before US production company Atomic Monster Productions makes the bank happy. Our muticultural hero here is James Wan, an Australian of Malaysian Chinese descent, as every horror film lover knows. He and Leigh Whannell created the Saw and Insidious franchises, which makes him a major planetary Fright God. [All figures in AU$]

Warner Bros popped Malignant out on 195 screens in Australia to be rewarded by the end of the weekend with $260,000. The critics like the film. David Stratton, who is no fan of bloodthirsty filmmakers, said, ‘Wan cheerfully draws on the extreme work of horror film aficionados such as David Cronenberg and Dario Argento as he piles on the bloody violence.’ So it has excellent DNA, while other reviewers revel in the ending. Phoenix writer Alison Shoemaker has the best line here: ‘Wan’s final twist is so maniacal and so (and this is a compliment) deeply and thoroughly stupid that it more than makes up for the minor missteps along the way.’

Released in the US on September 10, Malignant has made $27 million in the US and the same amount round the world, led mostly by Spain, France, Russia and Mexico though the South Koreans got the sulks. UK audiences took to it as well, perhaps desperate for an unexpected ending, given that British politics is now deep in the ‘This is exactly what we told you would happen’ phase of social collapse.

To our great sadness, this is all in stark contrast to the fate of Nitram, which has been out officially for four weeks, is on 45 screens, lost 18 this weekend and added $39,000 to top out now at $270,000.

Read: Nitram – an interview with Justin Kurzel

Last weekend’s pile on for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings caused by opening cinemas in NSW has disappeared in a puff of worry-laden air. Over the last three weekends it has taken $1.15 million, $1.44 million and then $1.15 million. Over 8 weeks as the top film it has made $13 million.

All of this points to the utter lack of major films. Number 2 in our box office list is The Last Duel, generally seen as a blowsy, rambling late Ridley Scott wreck in the US trades. It has made $11.4 million off 3,000 screens in a week, against a budget of $130 million. It doesn’t even have the excuse of streaming as Disney is keeping it in foyerland for at least the first 45 days. It is described as ‘the last sanctioned duel in France in the fourteenth century’, which is even less attractive than ‘the first sanctioned pie fight in Croatia for the fifteenth century.’ [Which we would watch in a trice].

But the Tomatometer gives it 85% and it has good reviews, though I suspect that the statisticians might tell us that any film centred on rape has a hard time with a Saturday night audience. Adam Driver does have one of the best medieval faces west of the Atlantic Ocean.

Lamb, underrated but correctly praised by Adrian Martin, is having a modest time. Eighteen cinemas, $15,000 this weekend, $52,000 altogether.

Read: Lamb is stunning and resists folk horror tag

Mindblowing, the Indian diaspora distributor, is back on deck with a film called, of all things, Yes, I am Student, which did all of $30,000 off 20 screens. Not a fabulous result but possibly a good toe in the water.

International

Dune launched last weekend with $53 million in the US, half of which came from IMAX screenings. A format which is thereby declared undead. This has been secured even though the film is being streamed on Peacock, a comparatively minor outfit at the moment.

In the last four days it has made $300 million around the world, which means a staggering 80% was taken outside the US.

Though $30 million was racked up in China, this is way under the top film, a patriotic epic called The Battle of Lake Changjin, about the saddest battle in the Korean War from the US point of view (cut to frozen bodies in the snow), which has been on top for over a month.

Across this month, No Time to Die has made $700 million around the world, Venom has made $430 million, while Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings has nailed $460 million over seven weeks.

Generally speaking these are really healthy numbers, they indicate excellent world sales, and they are chasing high budgets and presumably substantial advertising costs.

Not coming to an audience near you

Australians have a right to feel like the country cousin let onto the verandah from the chookhouse to watch the urban visitors doin their crazy dancing through the window. We get No Time to Die on November 11, Venom on 25 November and Dune on December 2. Thereby creating a veritable drought just as maddened local crowds roam the streets looking for something to do.

We get No Time to Die on November 11, Venom on 25 November and Dune on December 2. Thereby creating a veritable drought just as maddened local crowds roam the streets looking for something to do.

We will see a bump in the figures next weekend as Victoria opens up, bringing its powerhouse numbers back to the national pile. But the picture house owners will have to keep servicing their overdrafts for some time yet.

Read: Best Halloween Films from Australian Women in Horror

The exhibitors are ignoring the family aspect of Halloween completely, except maybe for robot family comedy Ron’s Gone Wrong. Malignant will be joined by yet another in the Halloween franchise, this one called Halloween Kills. We reckon the series will end with a version in which a virus makes boredom into a terminal illness, in which everyone on Planet Earth has to be happy, happy, happy.. until everyone dies in a mass rictus of frozen smile muscles. To be called Halloween Dance of Death.

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.